Los Angeles Dodgers, other California teams debut fully vaccinated seating section for home games

By Scottie Andrew and Homero De la Fuente, CNN

    (CNN) -- Fully vaccinated baseball fans won't have to maintain social distancing this weekend at Dodger Stadium.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, reigning World Series champs, designated two sections of its 56,000-seat stadium for fully vaccinated attendees starting Saturday. Guests from different households will be seated next to each other and masks are still required.

To gain entry to the Dodgers-Padres match-up, fully vaccinated fans ages 16 and up will need to present proof that at least two weeks have passed since their final vaccine dose. If they're underage and not eligible to be vaccinated, they must prove they tested negative for Covid-19 within the last 72 hours. And if they can't provide proof, they won't be admitted, according to the team.

Dodgers fans who got access to the sections said they were happy to be back at a game.

"We're just excited to get back in the stadium," said Jonathan Riemer. "This is such an integral part of all of our lives, such an important piece of what makes us whole, and the fact that we've been separated from this experience for so long, it means so much for us just to get back in there and be able to celebrate this team, this community, this culture."

The Dodgers are one of a few Major League Baseball teams to offer seating for fully vaccinated fans. The San Diego Padres debuted their fully vaccinated section earlier this month, and San Francisco Giants launched its special seating on Thursday.

Fans were welcomed back to MLB games across the US this month, though most teams have limited capacity, staggered seating and still require fans to wear masks except when they're eating or drinking.

Coronavirus derailed the 2020 MLB regular season, pushing back the start date to July and cutting the season down to 60 games. Most teams played to empty stadiums, except for the National League Championship Series and the World Series, which were held at Globe Life Field where the Texas Rangers play.

The Dodgers' World Series run was nearly disrupted by a Covid-19 outbreak when star third baseman Justin Turner was pulled mid-game in Game 6 of the World Series. Team officials later revealed he had tested positive for Covid-19, though he joined his teammates on the field -- occasionally sans mask -- to celebrate their win.

To keep the pandemic from delaying the 2021 regular season -- and potentially learn more about Covid-19 variants -- the MLB has paired with The Sports Research and Testing Laboratory to regularly test players for Covid-19 variants. Sequencing the different variants is costly and time-consuming, but since the MLB is a "microcosm of the US" and players represent a wide variety of locales, they make ideal subjects for identifying Covid-19 variants before they begin to dominate in the public.

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