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Photo: Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins are using spring training as a testing ground for bringing fans back to Target Field — and both team and state leaders are expressing optimism about the prospect of making it work.

Why it matters: The Twins lost out on more than $100 million in revenue during last year's shortened season played in an empty stadium, according to one Forbes estimate.

  • Game-day crowds could also provide a much-needed boost in business for struggling bars and restaurants.

What's happening: The team is working with Maplewood-based 3M to develop new safety protocols, including cleaning practices and plans for getting fans in and out.

  • For spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, the team is requiring fans to wear face coverings, except when eating or drinking. Seating is based on socially distanced "pods" of groups of two or four, per MLB.com.

Driving the news: A proposal submitted to Gov. Tim Walz would allow the Twins to welcome up to 10,000 ticket-holders — about 25% capacity — during the regular season, per Fox9.

  • In order for that to happen, Walz would need to lift or change restrictions on large gatherings, including sporting events.

What they're saying: Twins vice president of operations Matt Foy told Fox9 he's "confident we can open the season with some fans in the building." And a Walz spokesperson tells us the governor is "eager to get back to Target Field," though he didn't commit to opening day.

  • "If Minnesotans continue to work hard to keep the virus under control while vaccinations ramp up, we’re optimistic we can get fans back in the stands in some capacity this season."

Between the lines: With cases and hospitalizations remaining at manageable levels and vaccinations picking up, we seem to be on the right track.

  • Even Anthony Fauci says there's a "pretty good chance" of a full MLB season with limited fans if cases continue to drop.

What's next: The new game-day protocols will get their first test when the Twins face off against the Boston Red Sox in Florida on Sunday.

Go deeper

Feb 22, 2021 - Sports

The lab powering pandemic sports

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

BioReference Laboratories, Inc. has been a key cog in the sports-amid-a-pandemic machine, providing tailor-made, COVID-19 testing solutions for most major American sports leagues.

What to know: Founded in 1981 and owned by parent company OPKO Health, BioReference is one of the largest full-service, specialty laboratories in the U.S., averaging 50-60,000 PCR tests per day.

2 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.