File-Cleveland Indians fans

Cleveland Indians shortstop Amed Rosario tosses the ball to second base during a spring training baseball practice Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Goodyear, Ariz. Ohio's professional sports teams are expected to be allowed 30% fan capacity when seasons open in the spring.

(The Center Square) – First, Ohio’s curfew ended. Now, fans will be back in the stands.

In another sign the state’s COVID-19 pandemic numbers are moving in a lower direction, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Ohio’s spring pro sports teams could be allowed up to 30% of fan capacity with an approved pandemic plan.

The Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Columbus Crew, FC Cincinnati and the state’s minor league baseball teams can thank school children for the change.

“We reached out to them and said, 'We think we’re going to be around 30%. We want to see your plan. We want to see how you’re able to get the social distancing.' I’ve also made it very clear that we can do that if everyone is masked,” DeWine said during a news conference Monday afternoon. “We’ve learned this from schools. Schools have done a phenomenal job. Kids have been relatively close together, and we’ve not seen the spread in classrooms.”

DeWine cautioned a COVID-19 variant is expected to become dominant in Ohio in late March, leaving questions.

“The variant is out there in Ohio,” DeWine said. “Our best medical information is that it very well could become dominant in Ohio in the later part of March. We don’t really know what’s going to happen after that.”

In the meantime, DeWine is moving ahead with the idea of 30% capacity with specific masking and distancing requirements. A full announcement is expected Thursday.

The Indians and Reds open their spring training schedule against each other Sunday in Arizona. The Indians open the regular season at Detroit on April 1, with the homer opener scheduled for April 5.

The Reds open at home April 1 against St. Louis.

Most lower level minor league schedules begin around May 4, while the AAA Columbus Clippers and Toledo Mud Hens open shortly after major league clubs begin.

The Columbus Crew plays a preseason match at home April 15.

The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets announced earlier this month fans will return at a 10% capacity at the beginning of next month.

The state reported Monday 1,611 COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period, down significantly from more than 4,000 at its peak over the past 21 days. Deaths, hospitalizations and ICU admissions also were significantly down.

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.