As COVID-19 rates decline, could fans return to Dodger Stadium in time for opener?

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The home opener for the Dodgers is set for April 9 - and there's a possibility at least some fans could be back in the stands at Dodger Stadium.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday expressed confidence that if COVID-19 trends continue downward, fans will be back in the seats of outdoor stadiums when baseball season begins.

He said the state is having "advanced conversations'' with Major League Baseball and local health authorities around California.

"We will socialize those conversations very, very shortly, we're working on the final details,'' Newsom said during a visit to Long Beach.

"We've been working very closely with Major League Baseball, others across the spectrum, working with local health officers, and we'll be updating those guidelines as well.''

He noted the downward trend of COVID-19 testing-positivity rates, along with a 43% drop in hospitalizations due to COVID over the past two weeks and a 42% drop in ICU hospitalizations.

"We are stabilizing,'' he said. "... We have confidence that when you think forward, look forward to April opening day, where we are likely to be if we all do our job, if we all do our job and we don't let down our guard and spike the ball -- wrong sport, but you get the point. Then I have all the confidence in the world fans will be back safely in a lot of those outdoor venues.''

Fans have been barred from attending sporting events since the pandemic began, with the state so unwilling to budge on the restriction that the Rose Bowl was moved out of Pasadena to Texas.

Newsom didn't offer any details on the nature of conversations regarding a return to sports attendance, only indicating that an announcement was forthcoming.

The Angels' home opener, hosting the Chicago White Sox, is scheduled for April 1.

LAUSD bringing back high school sports

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Wednesday it will follow state and local guidance to allow students ages 13 and older to take part in outdoor sports competitions.

Student athletes will be cleared to participate in California Interscholastic Federation Season 1 and 2 practices and competitions.

All of those sports activities will be held outdoors and athletes and coaches must adhere to strict safety protocols.

CIF Season 1 sports include cross country, football and water polo. Season 2 includes baseball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming/diving, tennis, track and field and traditional game day cheer.

"Allowing students to resume athletic competition is not a decision we made lightly," Superintendent Austin Beutner said. "The spread of the virus is still categorized as widespread in Los Angeles County. At the same time, the opportunity for young adults to be with friends and teammates while participating in a sport might help ease the anxiety and isolation many are feeling."

Los Angeles County moving closer to red tier

Los Angeles County could hit the numbers threshold for moving back to the state's less-restrictive red tier by next week, according to county health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. But the county's numbers would have to stay at that level for two weeks before moving out of the purple tier, unless the state modifies the process.

One of the key numbers in that tier shift is the number of cases by population. The county is now at 7.2 cases per 100,000 residents. Dropping to below 7 per 100,000 is one of the key factors in changing tiers.

"It is very possible that we'll enter the red tier as early as next week," Ferrer said. "Our case rate needs to remain at or below seven new cases per 100,000 residents for two consecutive weeks in order for us to be eligible for any re-openings that are allowed in the red tier."

Shifting tiers would also allow schools to reopen for in-person classes in grades 7-12. Currently the county is permitting schools to reopen for the lower grades, although some districts and schools are waiting for teacher and staff vaccinations before reopening.

Newsom noted the state has already administered 9.5 million doses of vaccine and is trying to increase that number, but is limited by supply.

Ferrer noted supply remains an issues locally as well.

"Since vaccines have become available the demand has far surpassed the actual supply and there has been a great deal of variability as to how many doses we receive each week," Ferrer said.

Ferrer also noted that even though the county is seeing a downward trend in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the numbers still remain higher than they were before the surge that started in November. The county reported more than 1,700 new cases on Wednesday as well as 116 deaths.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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