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'I Hope People Think Beyond Themselves': As Stadiums Welcome Back Crowds, Expert Says Fans Must Respect New Rules

(CBS Local) -- With the number of Americans receiving their COVID vaccine shots rising and spring weather arriving throughout much of the country, sports fans have begun to return to arenas and stadiums for the first time in a year. While all stadiums have instituted various protocols in order to attempt to keep fans safe and mitigate any potential for more spreading of the virus, there was one example earlier this week that touched off a lot of conversation. The Texas Rangers welcomed a sellout crowd for their home opener on Monday.

While the Rangers did have ballpark staff working to enforce their masking policy, there were some fans who weren't. And with a crowd of over 38,000 people, social distancing, which along with mask wearing is still recommended by the CDC, is difficult to achieve. Though the home opener was full capacity, the Rangers have implemented "socially distanced seating sections" for upcoming games allowing for more distance between fans in parts of the ballpark.

The Rangers are an outlier among MLB and professional sports teams overall with most adhering to a 25% capacity limit at their venues. Though the country is progressing towards a sense of normalcy, President Biden has asked for continued caution, wearing masks, social distancing, in order to give enough time for vaccination levels to reach the necessary heights to make virus spread almost non-existent. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, there are those who continue to take those precautions and there are others who just want to get back to normal, including full attendance at stadiums.

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"I think that all depends on your opinions about Dr. Fauci," said sociologist Dr. Vernon Andrews in an interview with CBS Local's Ryan Mayer. "I think that's what determines it. If your belief is that COVID is a hoax and that no one's dying, I don't know what the hoax would be for, but if you do think that way, you might be rushing to the stadium. You might be glad there's full capacity on an airplane or in a stadium. You might just want to get back to your sport and get back to 'normal'. We all want to get back to normal. We all want to be there."

Dr. Andrews, who teaches at California State University-Chico, said that he would be attending an Oakland A's game this week. The A's, he noted, are keeping capacity limited to 11,000 people and are distancing people only allowing "pods" of two or four tickets to be bought. Those policies are in line with many arenas and stadiums that we've seen as states begin the process of reopening. Still, Dr. Andrews says that his hope would be that people continue to take the necessary precautions if not just for themselves but for the others around them.

"I'm going as a sociologist also because I just want to check this out. But boy, I would hope that people would value the lives of their family members and others who are close to them and think, 'maybe this new guy in the White House is on to something. Maybe him asking us to give it 100 days before we just rush back, maybe that's the right thing.' I would hope that people think beyond themselves," said Dr. Andrews.

While he acknowledges that there is a segment of the population that only thinks about themselves in a 'don't tread on me' line of thinking, Dr. Andrews points to the example of wearing seat belts in cars as an analogous protective measure.

"In the old days, back in the 70s, if you got in the car with someone else and put on a seat belt, people would get upset at you. 'Don't you think my driving is good? Why don't you think my driving is good?' Then, people realized there are such things as accidents that you have nothing to do with. People t-bone you or something else happens. So, they began to use the protective measure," said Dr. Andrews. "I would hope that people would just say to themselves you know maybe I don't think that, but maybe it's a protective measure. Like the speed limit. And maybe I should just do this one time and I won't have to do it for another 100 years. That's my hope. And my hope isn't that places like Texas open up stadiums to everyone because that cannot be a good thing."

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