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Wednesday July 28th, 2021 4:33AM

The Latest: NFL's Patriots could have full house for opener

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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Boston’s pro sports teams could be playing in front of full-capacity crowds by August, according to new Massachusetts COVID-19 reopening guidelines.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s office announced Tuesday that capacity at large venues, such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks, can increase from their current level of 12% to 25% beginning May 10.

Those limits would then increase to 100% for all businesses on Aug. 1 as vaccination numbers continue to increase and the state enters its final phase of reopening. The state will also relax its mandatory mask order for some outdoor settings, effective at the end of April.

The shift means that the New England Patriots could begin their 2021 season with Gillette Stadium at full capacity. It also clears the way for the Boston Marathon, which last year was canceled for the first time in its 124-year history and shifted this year from its normal mid-April running to Oct. 11.

All of these changes are based on vaccination distribution and favorable public health data and could change.

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The NHL is preparing to adjust playoff contingency plans if virus restrictions in Canada prevent travel between provinces or back and forth to the U.S.

“Where we play is going to depend on COVID, obviously -- we hope to keep everybody healthy -- and it’s going to depend on government regulations in terms of where we’re going to be able to travel our players and our teams and where we can’t,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday. “If we can’t travel in Canada, either as among the provinces or from the U.S. to Canada and back, we’ll make whatever adjustments we have to do to get the playoffs completed.”

Bettman called the situation “wildly unpredictable” and one that changes daily. The NHL kicked the can down the road on cross-border travel by having all seven Canadian teams play in the same division for the entire regular season and first two rounds of the playoffs.

The first time a Canadian team would need to play a counterpart in the U.S. would be in June, though there has been speculation about the first two rounds of the North Division playoffs happening in a quarantined bubble.

Canada has so far lagged behind in vaccinating people against COVID-19 compared to the U.S. Canada has fully vaccinated 2.71% of people, while the U.S. is just under 29%.

That disparity has prevented the NHL from relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a certain threshold of vaccination, which is the case with the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball that currently have all teams playing in the U.S.

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  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP Online Basketball, AP Online Hockey, AP Sports - NFL, AP Sports - NBA
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