Maryland’s college and professional football teams will be allowed to welcome more fans into their stands for future games under an order issued Friday by Gov. Larry Hogan.
“Outdoor sporting venues” — including the home stadiums of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team — will be allowed to host spectators up to 10% of their typical capacity. That opens the door for the teams to potentially allow a few thousand fans to watch the remainder of their home games.
The order represents the latest easing of restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected at least 134,000 Marylanders and killed nearly 3,900 people in the state.
At recent games, the teams have been limited to just 250 spectators, allocating those seats primarily to relatives of players and team staff.
The Ravens said in a statement issued Friday afternoon that they were waiting for word from the city before considering allowing more spectators.
“We received Governor Hogan’s order today updating limits for outdoor sporting venues, which would allow up to 10% of total capacity. We have contacted Mayor [Bernard C. “Jack”] Young’s office to discuss Governor Hogan’s order,” the team said in the statement.
A spokesman for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the mayor plans to discuss the order with the city health commissioner next week. Because the Ravens are away this weekend, he has some time to make a decision — though his administration indicated he could be open to it. As with past state orders, local leaders maintain the authority to keep stricter rules in place.
“We are aware of the governor’s executive order and are working with community stakeholders to accommodate these new adjustments safely for all residents and visitors of Baltimore City,” wrote the mayor’s spokesman, James Bentley, in a statement.
Hogan’s announcement once again came as a surprise and sent city officials scrambling on a Friday afternoon.
“It would be great if he either included us in his planning or, at the very least, briefed us ahead of time," Bentley said.
The Ravens' next home game is Nov. 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that he and the team missed having a crowd of fans cheering them on in person.
“I just want to say, we miss our fans," Harbaugh said. “We have a great fan base; that stadium would’ve been rocking and rolling [Sunday], and they would’ve been fired up for what they saw.”
If the NFL teams go forward with inviting more spectators, those fans will not be allowed to tailgate and will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. They must remain in their seat, though guidance from health officials notes: “Spectators may certainly stand so long as they do not leave their seats.”
M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore holds about 71,000 fans and FedEx Field in Landover has a capacity of about 80,000.
The order also allows high school and college games at outdoor stadiums to admit up to 25% capacity, under certain conditions.
The college teams must allow only students and staff of the home team to attend the game, and must show that they are testing at least 15% of the student population weekly with a positivity rate of less than 0.25% for the two weeks before the game.
Tailgating is prohibited and masks, temperature checks and social distancing are required.
The Naval Academy is the first local college to start a fall season, which they began with no fans in the stands. They were given permission this month to bring the 4,000-member Brigade of Midshipmen into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
For the Mids' next home game against the University of Houston on Oct. 24, the academy has been preparing for only the midshipmen to attend, without any other fans or spectators.
The University of Maryland plans to play football this fall, with the first home Terps game scheduled for Oct. 30 against the University of Minnesota.
Any change to fan attendance at Maryland Stadium will be announced first by the Big Ten Conference. As part of the Big Ten’s decision to play this fall, it announced that it wouldn’t be allowing the sale of tickets to the general public. This contrasts with the other Power 5 conferences currently playing, as they have allowed fans to be admitted so long as local and state jurisdictions have given their approval.
The University of Maryland does not currently meet the threshold of a 0.25% positivity rate. For the week of Oct. 4-10, the university’s coronavirus dashboard reported a positivity rate of 1.0%, which includes only tests administered by the university, and not any tests of students or staff conducted by off-campus doctors or clinics.
Hogan’s latest order also allows large “outdoor entertainment venues” — those with a typical capacity of more than 2,500 people — to open with up to 10% capacity.