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No requirement for COVID-19 testing or vaccinations for fans attending MLB games in 2021

MLB announces its minimum health and safety standards plan to teams

MLB: World Series-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball just announced that it does not plan to make fans prove that they’ve been vaccinated or had a negative COVID-19 test before attending in-person baseball games in 2021.

MLB has outlined the safety protocols to be followed in what it has dubbed its “minimum health and safety standards” for 2021. Within, the league states that state and local authorities are allowed to mandate more restrictive measures than those laid out by Major League Baseball and that policies are subject to change if necessary. The idea behind the memo laying out the minimum health and safety standards is for teams to plan the safe welcoming of fans back to ballparks in 2021.

MLB explained its position regarding the decision not to require testing or vaccination. The following quotes from MLB can be seen in Bill Shaikin’s article in the LA Times:

Mass testing of this kind is not practical with the existing rapid testing options, and testing is of limited utility when done days in advance of an event.

The league also noted the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution and placed responsibility on the teams to consult legal counsel before imposing vaccination requirements on fans. The league also suggests that state and local authorities are apt to require “pod” seating with small groups coming together to watch a game having to be dispersed from other groups at least six feet apart.

Face masks will be mandated at all times for fans except when eating or drinking at their seats. Social distancing will be enforced in lines entering and exiting stadiums as well as in lines for concessions and merchandise sales. Hand sanitizers and hand washing stations are to be made available and that a buffer zone of six feet be made between fans and the playing field. Teams are to submit a health and safety plan to the league for league office approval.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently told teams to prepare for a 162-game season and for Spring Training to begin on-time. Milwaukee Brewers’ Spring Training games are expected to start on February 27 with their first contests in a split-squad against the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics. Obviously pitchers and catchers will report sometime in February, projected around the 18th, but those dates have yet to be announced.

MLB is seems more bullish about the prospects of the upcoming season. Not that long ago the league was singing a different tune, seeming preparing for a delay to Spring Training and a shortened season. Quotes coming from team sources in at least a couple of baseball’s front offices indicated pessimism for 162-game season, and they also suggested that players would be mandated to be vaccinated.

Something changed between then and now. Progress on the vaccines and the MLBPA’s stance on the issue both could have swayed the league’s decision making.

The players’ union, led by senior director of collective bargaining and legal Bruce Meyer, put out a response to Manfred’s announcement to teams,

Players are planning on showing up for spring training on time for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the league’s previously issued schedule.

Whatever the case, it is looking more optimistic that Major League Baseball will have a full season in 2021. Obviously that optimism is subject to change due to public health changes. Yet even in the face of 3000-4000 plus deaths per day due to COVID-19, MLB and the MLBPA are aligning for a "normal" season of baseball.