NEW YORK (AP) - Major League Baseball and its teams said Thursday they will distribute $1.5 million in free tickets this regular season to essential workers of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The tickets will go to doctors, nurses and other hospital staff; police, firefighters, public safety personnel and corrections workers; teachers, daycare personnel and support staff; public transit workers; grocery store and delivery workers; food and agriculture workers; and construction and manufacturing workers.
The tickets will be divided evenly among the 30 teams, and each club will select recipients, games and seat locations.
The U.S. moved closer Thursday toward vaccinating 100 million Americans in a race against an uptick in COVID-19 cases that is fueling fears of another nationwide surge just as the major league baseball season starts and thousands of fans return to stadiums.
More than 99 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 56 million people — 17% of the nation's population — have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A total of 154 million vaccines had been administered as of Thursday. President Joe Biden's new goal is to give 200 million vaccine doses during his first 100 days in office.
But coronavirus infections are inching up again. The country is averaging 64,000 cases per day this week, up from a daily average of 55,000 infections two weeks ago. Deaths have steadily been averaging about 900 a day.
Officials have warned that they could ban fans from ballparks if the numbers continue to rise. Even before the baseball season got underway Thursday, an opening game was postponed after a player tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Washington Nationals were scheduled to host the New York Mets on Thursday night, but after a Nationals player tested positive for COVID-19, the team canceled the game. It was not immediately rescheduled.