Patriots to allow season-ticket holders at higher risk for coronavirus to skip season, return in 2021

The NFL is still planning to start its season on time this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and — at least for now — will allow fans to attend games.

The New England Patriots, however, know that some of their season-ticket holders may not feel safe or comfortable watching in person at Gillette Stadium this season due to the coronavirus.

So, the organization isn’t going to punish them.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

If ticket holders are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, due to age or underlying health conditions, they can skip the season entirely and still hold onto their season tickets for the 2021 season.

“By completing this agreement now, your seat location will be protected for the 2021 season,” the team said in an email to season-ticket holders, per the Associated Press.

The Patriots, per the report, have a wait list with tens of thousands of names of fans trying to secure season tickets, “many of whom have waited a decade or more.” This move will ensure that fans who want to skip the season won’t lose their tickets and be replaced by someone on that list, as is common practice in the sports world.

The NFL released its full schedule in May and is still planning on moving forward with the season normally, though has held most of the offseason virtually so far.

However, the coronavirus pandemic is still raging in the United States and could significantly alter the season. There were more than 2.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 119,000 deaths attributed to it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week that he thought it would be difficult to see the NFL season taking place this fall, too. His comments came just days after several players from both the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans tested positive.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci told CNN. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

President Donald Trump, of course, pushed back on Fauci’s comments, saying he has “nothing to do with NFL Football.”

Regardless, the Patriots are still planning to welcome fans into their stadium for games this fall — as long as the fans are willing to come.

“We remain optimistic for the return of football and we are preparing to play each home game as scheduled in front of our season-ticket members this fall,” the Patriots told season-ticket holders, via the Associated Press. “We will do so in full compliance with the NFL and all government regulations and will rely on the advice of medical and public health professionals to maintain the safety of our fans, players, and personnel.”

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