In defiance of the recommendation of public health officials, the Texas Rangers packed their home opener with a near-capacity crowd.
Photos captured by the Associated Press showed that fans largely ignored MLB regulation on masking, which calls for face coverings except when actively eating and drinking while in ticketed seating areas. A number of fans could be seen outside of the seating bowl without masks, as well as a number of fans were seen without masks in seating areas while not actively eating.
Public health officials said placing people from different households within six feet of each other carries a risk of spreading the coronavirus.
"I don’t want to be critical of that, but that’s — I would not start off with 100% capacity," Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a Washington Post interview. "But, you know, Texas has been always a bit more — what’s the right word? — daring when it comes to the kinds of things that they want to do in regards to this outbreak."
The Rangers were the lone team to open their entire stadium for the home opener. The rest of the league opted for partial capacity, allowing distance between fans in the seats.
The New York Yankees and Mets required fans to either be fully vaccinated or submit a negative coronavirus test before entering the stadium.
The Rangers’ opener attracted a crowd of 38,238 in Globe Life Field, which has a capacity of 40,300.
The Rangers’ opening day opponents, Toronto Blue Jays, have not played a home game in their own stadium since 2019 due to border regulation. It’s unclear if the Jays will be able to return to Toronto during the 2021 season.
Texas, like much of the U.S., has seen a decline in coronavirus cases and deaths from a few months ago, but the state continues to average 90 coronavirus-related deaths a day. On Monday, Tarrant County, where the Rangers are located, reported 14 deaths.
MLB and the Texas Rangers have not responded to requests for comment.
The Rangers previously said that following Monday’s season opener, the team would lower capacity for games. Generally MLB games in April and May draw fewer fans after the home opener.