During a news conference at which Cuomo was flanked by Mets President Sandy Alderson and Yankees President Randy Levine, the governor said, “You’re going to the game anyway — it’s on your way. Stop and get a vaccine.”
“The main resistance now is people’s own fears and people’s comfort level,” Cuomo said. “And when you have a set of rules and protocols in place where people feel comfortable, I think it’s going to have more people attending games. I think more people will go to restaurants. I think more people will go to museums if they know they are safe when they go there. You’re vaccinated; you are going to sit with only vaccinated people. I think that’s actually going to increase the public acceptance level.”
Fans at Mets and Yankees games can get a shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (per MLB.com). The first 700 to 1,000 Yankees fans who get vaccinated on a given home date from May 7 through June 6 will get ticket vouchers, as will the first 250 Mets fans between May 24 and June 17.
“We’re all in on this,” Levine said. “We’re excited to be part of this. We’re excited to have more and more fans in the building because our players love it.”
For its pandemic-truncated 2020 season, MLB mandated that all teams play in stadiums without fans. In March, Cuomo declared that the Mets and Yankees could allow up to 20 percent capacity at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, the same limit as at other large outdoor stadiums in the state for professional sporting events.
Fans were asked to show evidence of a recent negative coronavirus test, but that requirement, which the governor reportedly described as “burdensome,” will be dropped. Under the new system of separate sections, all fans still will be required to wear masks.
“Fans are what make the game. Fans are also what make memories. And they make memories for players as well as themselves,” Alderson said. He added that the Mets already were vaccinating “approximately 2,000 individuals a day” at Citi Field and were “in the process of opening a drive-through lane.”
Both executives indicated that they thought having separate sections, some with mandatory distancing, suited the interests of fans for the time being.
“There are some people who are just not comfortable being in large groups, even at an outdoor facility. And so, from our standpoint, we still need some social distancing,” Alderson said. “Generally speaking, we think a gradual return is appropriate in light of some concerns that people have about being in large groups even if they’ve been vaccinated. So we’re working toward full capacity, of course, but we’re happy with where we are and where we’re going.”
“We’ve been polling our fans,” Levine said. “I think the majority are vaccinated rather than unvaccinated who are coming in. And hopefully those numbers continue to rise. But we will have separate sections and accommodate all our season ticket holders, make sure that they’re fine, and other people coming in.”
“Theoretically, if you had 100 percent vaccinated,” Cuomo said, “you could fill the entire stadium with 100 percent vaccinated.”
Alderson noted that the Mets have not been able to get at least 85 percent of their players and Tier 1 staff vaccinated, which would allow the team to loosen some restrictions under MLB protocols. He said that the team had reached approximately 77 percent among those personnel and that the Mets “continue to work on it.”
“At this point, it’s a case-by-case, individual-by-individual campaign on our part,” Alderson added. “We continue to provide education, and as time passes we get one or two more every few days. But we’re not at that level yet, and we see the kind of resistance within the framework of the team that we see publicly, and all of the same reasons are being made to us by them as we see in the public domain.”
Asserting that “virtually all” Yankees players had been vaccinated, Levine said the team was able to relax its restrictions Friday.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday the prospect of having more fans at home games was “exciting.”
“We’ve obviously seen it here early in the year, with a number of fans being allowed back in and just how that changes the atmosphere and the feeling and everything,” he said. “So I’m excited about it. And it brings a smile on my face, knowing we continue to move that needle.”
“I can’t wait for more fans to be in the stands,” Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka said. “I definitely am so grateful for at least just the 20 percent to be allowed in versus zero last year. So the sooner we can get back to normal, that’s going to be unbelievable for us.”
“Why do we get a vaccine?” Cuomo said at the news conference. “Because at the end of the day, we’re Yankees fans, we’re Mets fans, but we’re all on the same team on this one.”