Washington D.C. sports fans must answer health survey questions before entry and wear masks at all times after local authorities ruled they can return to Capital One Arena from next week.

The arena will be capped at 10 per cent of its capacity, meaning just 2,100 fans will be able to watch the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals. The return of fans has been approved by the Office of the D.C. Mayor, D.C. Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency and D.C. Health.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE), which owns the teams, said it will invite and honour hundreds of pre-selected frontline workers to the first games in recognition of their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. It added that priority for ticketing will be given to season ticket members and partners.

“Our fans fuel everything our players and teams accomplish, and they have been deeply missed,” said Ted Leonsis, chief executive of MSE.

“Our country has been through great stress over the past year, and it has taken a mental toll on all of us, but we know that sports are a great healer.

“So, we thank Mayor Bowser and her team for approving our vigorous health and safety plan so that some of our passionate Caps and Wizards fans may gather – with the first games being attended by some of our incredible first responders and frontline COVID-19 workers.”

MSE said it has worked closely with the local authorities and in consultation with medical partner, MedStar Health. It has also made significant capital investments in technologies to go above and beyond minimum standards for a safe and healthy environment for athletes, team staff, event employees and fans.

Face masks that cover both the nose and mouth are always required when inside Capital One Arena – regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

Health screening will include a series of questions ahead of entry. An MSE statement said: “All fans entering Capital One Arena will be required to verbally verify the following health survey questions: Have you felt like you had a fever in the past 24 hours? Do you have any of the following symptoms? New or unusual cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, loss of taste and/or smell, diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, chills, sweats, nasal congestion, and headache? Have you, or anyone you have been in close contact with, been diagnosed with COVID-19, or been placed on quarantine for possible COVID-19 within the past 14 days?”

Tickets will be sold in pods of one to four seats and placed in a staggard manner throughout each seating section to maintain six feet of distance between groups of ticket holders. All tickets will be issued electronically, will be mobile-only and paper tickets will not be honoured.

Fans will enter Capital One Arena through specific, dedicated points of entry which are correlated to the section of the arena where the fan’s seat is located.

Another NBA team set to welcome fans again is Sacramento Kings, who have confirmed that up to 1,600 frontline workers will attend their game against Minnesota Timberwolves on April 20. The news comes after California Governor Gavin Newsom last week announced the resumption of limited fans in attendance for live events at indoor professional sports venues across the state.

The Kings said that for subsequent games, and in accordance with health guidelines and physical distancing, the number of paid fans in attendance will gradually expand.

Last week, the NBA basketball league entered into a partnership with secure identity company Clear, whose Health Pass technology will be made available to teams for in-arena health screening.

In January, Arizona Coyotes became the first NHL ice hockey team to welcome fans back to its home arena since the outbreak of COVID-19. New York and New Jersey are also allowing 10-per-cent capacity at indoor arenas.

Image: Daniel Lobo / Available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication