Whitmer officials raise capacity limits at outdoor stadiums; Tigers can seat 8,200 at opener

Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration will allow crowds of up to 20% of capacity limits at outdoor stadiums and will impose new testing requirements for youth sports.

The updated order, which was released Friday morning, means that the Detroit Tigers can accommodate more than 8,200 fans for its April 1 home opener and succeeding games, up from the 1,000 fans under the old order. The Tigers had said they anticipated the attendance cap would be raised.

The Whitmer administration’s order puts it in line with Pennsylvania, where the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates are allowed up to 20% capacity.

Among other nearby states, Ohio is allowing the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians to have up to 30% capacity, while Wisconsin and Minnesota are allowing the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins to have 25% capacity.

Comerica Park can seat 41,083 fans, so a 20% capacity limit means the Tigers could accommodate up to 8,217 fans.

Five Republican state lawmakers held a Monday press conference at Comerica Park where they had urged Whitmer to increase attendance caps.

“We need to start celebrating life,” state Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, who wanted to raise Comerica Park’s Opening Day capacity to at least 50%. “Gov. Whitmer, for God’s sake, just let us have fun for once.”

The updated order from the Department of Health and Human Services says that beginning April 2,  gatherings for sports practice and competition involving persons age 13 to 19 are prohibited unless all such persons participate in a testing program. The change requires youth athletes to take part “in a weekly testing program,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun the state’s chief medical executive.

Requires youth athletes to take part in a weekly testing program. We want to prevent spread, Khaldun said

At the Friday morning press conference, Whitmer also said fully vaccinated individuals will be able to participate in residential gatherings with other fully vaccinated individuals without wearing a mask to ensure consistency with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Today’s action is an important step towards normalcy, but there’s still more work to do,” Whitmer said. “As always, mask up, maintain social distancing and wash your hands. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of the virus so we can end this pandemic together.”

Whitmer appeared at a press briefing at 9:15 a.m. with Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive.

Last week, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported 11,383 new infections, a seven-week high. The 5.2% positivity rate — the percentage of diagnostic tests bringing positive results — marked a six-week high.

Hospitalizations are also increasing with 1,106 adults hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, according to state data.

Meanwhile, Michigan continues to distribute vaccines. More than 3.3 million doses have been administered. About 15% of the state’s adult population, 1.2 million residents, have received their complete vaccination.

Khaldun said Wednesday that she’s hopeful Michigan can avoid the type of surges it experienced in 2020 when hospitals voiced concerns about their ability to service all of the sick people needing care.

“I still think we are at risk,” the chief medical executive cautioned. “And again, with these variants that are more easily transmitted and potentially, the vaccine is not as effective, still effective but potentially not as effective, for some of them.”

cmauger@detroitnews.com

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