We all knew it would happen but few guessed that it would happen this early. On Tuesday afternoon, the Hartford Athletic Twitter account posted a message stating that the club will move to 100% stadium capacity starting with its home match on May 29.
The news makes Hartford Athletic the first USL Championship team to officially open home games to a full stadium.
In recent weeks, some USL clubs have danced around the idea of full stadiums. They post vague messages such as “we are taking all precautions” or “we continue to monitor the local situation,” without committing to a definite capacity limit. But now, we have the first shoe to drop.
As the Hartford Athletic post explains, fans will still be required to wear masks. The team will stick with its original 50% capacity for its first two home matches on May 4 and May 15. But after that, it’s back to pre-pandemic vibes.
Why not the first two matches, you ask?
That’s because last week Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced that all COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted starting May 19.
Following promising vaccination numbers (Connecticut is one of only seven states to have distributed 80,000 doses per 100,000 residents, according to the CDC) the governor and his staff believe the state is ready to open back up.
Not surprisingly, the news is getting mixed reviews. While many fans are excited about the prospect of a packed Dillon Stadium and raucous crowds, some health experts are expressing caution and reminding residents to continue to mask up.
Dr. Manisha Juthani, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine and infectious diseases specialist at Yale Medicine, told the Connecticut Post, “With the more transmissible B.1.1.7. variant making up 50% of COVID cases in Connecticut, I have heard of transmission of COVID occurring at outdoor sporting events, for example,” she said. “Masking is the only way to prevent that.”
All eyes will be on Hartford Athletic as more and more teams look to replicate the move, if successful.