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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

On 'Opening Day Eve,' COVID-19 Cases In Hamilton Co. Still Plateauing, Officials Say

Hamilton County Commission (screenshot from Mar. 31, 2021 COVID-19 Briefing)
The county is averaging roughly 90 cases per day, a sharp decline from the case counts in December.

COVID-19 cases continue to "plateau" in Hamilton County as most of the area gears up for Reds Opening Day. Officials are requesting people attending Great American Ball Park on Thursday do so responsibly and keep their distance in the DORA district.

Last week, the Designated Open Refreshment Area district opened, but concerns emerged about large crowds gathering without masks. Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says regarding current metrics, there's no reason to be concerned at the moment.

"And I know that the more we come together and let our guard down, the greater opportunity there is for us to increase COVID activity within our community," Kesterman said. "So my plea with everyone is while it's wonderful to be outside, while it's wonderful to get activities back together, we all have to play a role to make sure that Hamilton County can get things back to normal."

At least 697 new cases were reported during the previous week, bringing the county's total to 76,271.

The county is averaging roughly 90 cases per day. It's in sharp contrast to what was seen last December when roughly 716 cases per day were reported. Despite this, Hamilton County still remains at the "red" level on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, indicating high incidence of cases.

Rules At The Ballpark

Credit Hamilton County Commission (screenshot from Mar. 31, 2021 COVID-19 Briefing)
Hamilton County Commission (screenshot from Mar. 31, 2021 COVID-19 Briefing)
If you're attending Great American Ball Park, you'll see these signs posted throughout.

Opening Day will look a lot different this year due to the pandemic. Attendance will be limited to 30% capacity, with seating in pods with six feet of social distancing between them. Signs will be posted throughout the facility to keep people aware of the health guidelines.

Masks will be mandatory for fans, and digital ticketing and cashless pay will be utilized.

Tim O'Connell is the vice president of ballpark operations for the Cincinnati Reds. He says taking care of the fans is their number one obligation and believes the safety plan will work.

"If you're at the ballpark, you see something that does not make sense, come visit with us," O'Connell said. "Come visit with one of our employees, our fan accommodations desk, and we will make sure that if there is a problem, it will be corrected."

The Reds play the Cardinals Thursday at 4:10 p.m.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.