Governor Charlie Baker announced on Tuesday afternoon that Massachusetts would be relaxing the outdoor mask mandate at the end of the week, part of a collection of new guidelines from the CDC that should leave Patriots fans optimistic about seeing some live football later this summer.
Mask mandates will still be in place for large events, but capacities will continue to increase with stadiums moving from 12 percent up to 25 percent capacity on May 10. August 1 was announced as the tentative target date for the ending of the majority of the Covid-related restrictions, including stadium capacity limitations.
If all goes well, the Patriots could consider welcoming back fans to training camp practices in August and anticipate full attendance when home games kick off in September.
New England and the rest of the NFL battled through the 2020 season without full stadiums, a strange experience that left teams needing to bring their own energy without their passionate and loud fans to lean on. Oftentimes big plays went almost unnoticed due to a lack of celebration from the stands, but as vaccination efforts continue to expand there can now be some optimism that the fan-less 2020 season will not repeat itself.
After this weekend's draft, the NFL is expected to announce the 2021 league schedule on May 12 as teams will now play 17 games. Along with their usual slate of AFC East opponents, the Patriots will face the AFC and NFC South divisions, and have matchups against the Browns, Chargers and Cowboys.
Gillette Stadium issued the following statement in light of the announcement:
"We are so excited to hear Governor Charlie Baker's announcement today that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is officially increasing large venue capacities to 25 percent beginning May 10 and 100 percent on August 1. This is not only great news for our teams and all our fans, but more importantly represents a final step in the state's COVID response plan and a much-anticipated return to normalcy."
"After waiting more than 400 days, we finally reopened Gillette Stadium to fans this past Saturday when we welcomed over 7,000 Revolution fans to the home opener. With today's news, we look forward to expanding our venue's capacity and hosting full-capacity crowds once again at Gillette Stadium this summer. "
"We can't thank Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito and their staff enough for their continued efforts to safely navigate the response to COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. We have been partnering with the state for over a year and are proud that by the end of the week we will have successfully vaccinated over 500,000 people at Gillette Stadium since January. As we move forward with this final step, we are committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment for any fan attending an event at Gillette Stadium and look forward to advancing our plans to fully reopen."