Miami Heat fans who have received full doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will have their own, private section at American Airlines Arena starting next month.
The Heat announced last week that they plan to open up two sections in their lower bowl beginning April 1 for fans who can provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days. Those fans will enter the arena through their own private gate.
Fans in this section will still have to wear masks, though social distancing guidelines will be relaxed somewhat. Pods of fans in that section will be separated by a single seat.
Though the Heat are believed to be the first team in the United States to announce a plan like this, the idea is one that may be adopted widely in the sports world — at least during the initial vaccine mass rollout.
Last week, The NBA teams were informed that sections like this will be allowed under specific guidelines. If those sections are within 30 feet of the court, for example, those fans will have to prove a negative coronavirus test two days prior to the game.
“You’re already getting a sense that things are starting to change and go in a much more positive direction,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, via The Associated Press. “Just the environment in our building, I remember those first couple games we had at the beginning of the year when there was literally nobody here, that was an eerie experience.”
The Heat have allowed a limited number of fans into the arena since January, and have even used coronavirus detecting dogs at the arena. Some members of the Heat team and staff have received their vaccines, too, joining members of the Pelicans and the Hawks organizations as the first in the NBA to do so.
These are precarious times with effectively stopping the pandemic, and balancing public health safety, personal safety, and personal civil rights.
To date 25% of Americans have received a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine thus far and 14% are fully vaccinated. The United States is now administering 2.5 million doses on average each day. Florida has had 24% of residents receive a single dose and 13% of residents are fully vaccinated.