After informing the Nationals on Tuesday that they aren’t yet permitted to open their gates to fans, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was asked in a press conference Thursday what she would say to fans upset they can’t attend games at Nationals Park while indoor gatherings at schools and restaurants are allowed.
“I would say to them to be patient and we will continue to work with the team and give the best advice and guidance that we can,” Bowser said.
Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the District’s Department of Health, had a more in-depth answer.
“I think you’ve heard us state on a number of occasions, even as we’ve been rolling out vaccinations, that we need to continue to wear your masks, wash our hands, keep your distance and avoid large crowds,” Dr. Nesbitt said. “It’s still very real. So this notion that mass gatherings, whether indoor or outdoor, are all of a sudden appropriate, we need to make sure we’re distinguishing between what happens in a small indoor space with a small number of people such as the education environment versus a mass gathering whether it be indoor or outdoor. That still carries a significant risk for the individual and for the public health and health system.”
Several players, coaches and executives on the Nationals don’t share the same level of concern as Dr. Nesbitt or Mayor Bowser. Starting pitcher Max Scherzer and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman have referenced the number of NFL teams that successfully held games with fans this season. Even in the NBA and NHL, which host a majority of games in indoor arenas, teams have started admitting fans in limited capacity with permission from their local health officials.
That’s not the case in Washington, at least for now. In the letter Mayor Bowser co-signed to the Nationals, she said that the “opportunity to have fans in attendance will be reexamined as the public health metrics associated with COVID-19 evolve in the District.” The Nationals begin their regular season April 1, when they will host the New York Mets on Opening Day.
Nationals manager Davey Martinez expressed his desire to play in front of fans again Tuesday after the letter was made public.
"We still have a long way to go," Martinez said. “I'm hoping within the next few weeks they revisit. Everything goes well, they keep the fans safe and we're able to get them back in our stands.
“There's no secret I've said it before, we miss our fans. They bring us a lot of energy. I've always said that they're the 26th, now 27th man. So we want them in the stadiums and we want to play in front of our home fans. It'd be nice to get them in there for Opening Day."