Baseball

If Texas Rangers can’t enforce mask policy, they need to scale back

www.dallasnews.com

In the weeks leading up to their April 5 home opener, the Texas Rangers announced they would open their Arlington stadium at full capacity. No other MLB team has allowed more than 50% capacity at its ballpark this year.

It was a daring decision shored up by bold assurances: The team would play all games at Globe Life Field with the roof open except when it rained. Fans would have to keep their distance in the restroom and concession lines. The Rangers would mandate face masks and follow a “three-strike” approach with people who needed reminders.

The Rangers promised to be “extremely responsible” and help fans enjoy the game without worrying about joining a COVID-19 spreader event. But guests packing into Globe Life Field this season have largely ditched masks, and a team executive acknowledged to Dallas Morning News reporter Sam Blum that the three-strike policy was difficult to enforce.

Despite falling numbers of infections, we still don’t know who among us is sick or immune, so everything we do outside our homes entails a level of risk. The Rangers made a big gamble by deciding to open 100% without the room or power to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing. If they were hoping to inspire confidence in their choices, they have struck out.

Remember the vow to play with the roof open? As of Tuesday afternoon, five out of 10 Rangers’ home games this season had been played with the roof closed, including on a day with sunny skies in the mid-80s and on another day when the temperature sat near 60 degrees with no rain threat. That is mild spring weather for us Texans.

As for face masks, fans are required to wear them at the door, but “voluntary compliance” is the name of the game once inside. Stroll through the stadium or scan photos of Rangers home games, and you’ll see that masks are mostly absent.

With thousands of fans streaming into Globe Life Field, we understand that it’ll be impractical if not impossible for ushers and others to enforce mask use. That is why we’re puzzled by the decision to open 100% with a toothless mask mandate.

We’re also disappointed by a comment made by Rob Matwick, the Rangers executive vice president of business operations. “The person choosing to not wear the mask is the person putting themselves at risk,” he told this newspaper, even though scientists have shown that people who catch the virus at an event can unwittingly spread it to their families or communities afterward.

Fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks for many outside activities, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises mask use at sporting events. And even as more people get vaccinated, we cannot let our guard down. Researchers say a more contagious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in Brazil has reached Dallas. It’s a matter of time before it hops to other cities.

The Rangers hoped fans would wear masks willingly, but their experiment at Globe Life Field has shown that to be wishful thinking. We hope the team will consider scaling back admission to allow for and enforce social distancing between groups of guests, and we urge the Rangers to keep the roof open unless it’s raining to improve ventilation.

For everyone’s sake, we must sacrifice a bit longer. And we need our home team to go bat for us.

www.dallasnews.com

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