Six days before spring training is supposed to take place, the Nationals do not have clearance from the District of Columbia to operate in Nationals Park.
Major League Baseball and the MLBPA agreed to start spring training again on July 1. All spring training facilities have been shut down because of recent positive tests for coronavirus at various facilities. The Nationals never went back to using their spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., once it was closed in late March. Their initial plan was to return, but that changed when Florida’s spike in positive tests occurred.
Which moves them to their home stadium starting next week. The Nationals are currently in the back-and-forth waiver process with the District. Their waiver has not been denied. It also has not been approved.
“There has been a process for waivers throughout our pandemic response since we closed non-essential businesses,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday at a press conference when addressing the status of waivers in general. “And that process is that some people we have encouraged to go through the waiver process, others have reached out to us proactively. I think since we've started Phase 2, we've gotten many more organizations reaching out to us for a waiver. Typically what happens is Director [Christopher] Rodriguez and his team review it, it has health [department] input as well, then there's some decision if this is a kind of a one-off request that doesn't implicate other businesses we may make a decision. Some of them are in a class and we may want to consider changes to the whole class.”
Two sports facilities within District boundaries -- D.C. United’s Audi Field and the Wizards’ practice facility in Ward 8 -- received approved waivers to hold team practices. The Wizards initially re-opened their practice facility on May 29 for voluntary individual workouts prior to receiving the waiver for full-team practices June 22 when the District entered Phase 2 of re-opening. D.C. United began holding full team practices June 15.
“We continue to work closely with city officials and Major League Baseball on all of the appropriate health protocols in preparation for workouts to begin at Nationals Park next week,” a Nationals spokesperson told NBC Sports Washington.
In regards to the Nationals, and other larger venues, Christopher Rodriguez, director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said the process is ongoing.
“You saw that there were two that were posted in terms of what we approved and I think they're really good examples of the process that D.C. health and Homeland Security have laid out, which is those applicants for waivers have to provide to us very detailed plans as to how they will adhere to public health guidelines in their facilities and to conduct certain business-essential activities,” Rodriguez said Thursday. “Those plans go through a very rigorous and thorough review by the D.C. department of health and by emergency management. We then talk to those applicants about changes we need to see in order for them to restart essential business activities. So, that is sort of our process that we have put in place for waiver applicants.”
And the current status of this Nationals’ waiver request, among others?
“They are still being reviewed by Homeland Security and by the D.C. Department of Health,” Rodriguez said. “We got a first round of plans from them and we are reviewing those right now to make sure that everything that's in there that's written down adheres to very strict public health guidelines.”
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