The Texas Rangers held their season-opening game on Monday night. It was a sold-out evening with over 38,000 in the stands. It appeared a majority of the fans didn’t wear masks, which is in full compliance with the state law. Texas Governor Greg Abbott did away with a mask mandate weeks ago, proudly the first governor to do so.
Fans and players alike were quoted in news stories about how the game felt like a return to normal for them, especially after last season when no fans were allowed in the stadium.
Meanwhile, in New York, Yankee Stadium was only allowed to operate at 20 percent capacity. And every person in attendance 2 years old or older needed proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Without proof, they weren’t allowed in the stadium.
The rules are different at Fenway Park, where masks are mandated, capacity is at 12 percent, but no negative test is required for spectators.
After decades of Americans choosing to live in communities that share their politics and watch different television networks, the country ― generally speaking ― was brought together for a year with the shared lockdown reality of COVID-19.
To be sure, some states reacted differently than others in terms of the degree to which they imposed restrictions, but in large swaths of red and blue America, there was a shared experience: no going into the office, Zoom school, isolation from family members, no time at the gym, virtual religious services, and “eating out” meant “take out.”
But as more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, America is re-opening at a different pace depending on where people live. And the pace of re-opening is more directly tied to the state’s politics than its COVID count.
It is a situation that has caused every American to shake their heads. Blue state residents shake their heads as they see friends in red states posting pictures to their social media feeds of their kids at a communal Easter Egg hunt in Tennessee, or a party in Miami.
And red state residents shake their heads at blue state 30-somethings in New England who are double-masked under a face shield while being outside.
Americans are deeply divided over politics and there are inequalities involving race, class, and gender that shape how people live. Now on top of this, the politics of each state’s governor has direct ramifications over individual lives of residents.
This, of course, will all change over time as America more fully recovers from the pandemic. But if the variants circulate more in states that have loosened rules then it is possible those states will eventually have more stringent lockdowns and blue state baseball stadiums could have more fans.
Indeed, the daily pictures from baseball stands will tell the story of the coronavirus in America this summer. From an image at a baseball game, you can get a sense of the pandemic response in each state: The mask usage, the politics, and the comfort levels of individuals to gather in groups.
James Pindell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.