SAN FRANCISCO - As more people around the Bay Area get vaccinated, more locations are opening up options for those who've received their shots. The San Francisco Giants have set up vaccinated only sections for fans to get a little closer to a traditional baseball experience.
Fans are a big part of baseball. It's right there in the song, "Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd," but, the pandemic has meant social distancing, and that crowds are too risky.
"So far fans have been excited about it," said Russ Stanley, senior Vice President of Sales and Service for the San Francisco Giants. "It's been nice. You know, all of our social distance pods are twos and fours, but if someone wants to come with eight people in the vaccination section, they can."
The team is still offering socially distant seating for unvaccinated fans who have proof of negative COVID tests.
Infectious disease specialists say with that option there is no risk of excluding unvaccinated people altogether. "There's only going to be major abuse if unvaccinated individuals did not have access to seeing the game," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong from UCSF. "But, because they do have access to watch the game I have fewer ethical issues."
Dr. Chin-Hong says the Giants vaccinated seating option may be part of a growing trend, of expanding opportunities for those who have been vaccinated. "I think what the Giants are doing is like a local experiment in, essentially a vaccine passport," said Dr. Chin-Hong. "Giving folks who are vaccinated different privileges than folks who are not vaccinated."
Dr. Chin-Hong says offering special privileges or access may be just the right touch to incentives vaccinations without forcing people to get the shots. "I think having a lighthanded approach that's positive is a good one. Instead of a thing, like 'we'll cut your salary if you don't,' or, 'you better get vaccinated or I'm going to hit you with a stick,' having these positive symbols again of life that we all want is probably going to be more effective in the long haul."
The Giants say the plan is one small step toward bringing back the fans, and a traditional baseball experience. "The teams playing great people want to come to games," said Stanley from the Giants. "This gives us an opportunity to get more fans in and as the vaccinated population grows, you know, our capacity will grow."
While the Giants are offering the fully vaccinated only sections, there is no price difference or qualitative difference in the seats for those who are unvaccinated.
But, for those who are looking to recreate what a ballgame felt like before COVID, the vaccinated only sections may be the closest thing for now.