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Ohio governor grants variance allowing Bengals, Browns 'two-game trial' to host fans

Fans hoping to attend a Bengals or Browns game this season received a bit of good news on Saturday.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced both Ohio-based franchises have been granted a spectator variance to the state's sports order and will be allowed to host up to 6,000 spectators at two home games. The previously released order limited the attendance maximum for outdoor sports venues to "the lesser of 1,500 individuals, or 15 percent of fixed seated capacity" due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

For the Browns, those contests will be on Sept. 17 against the Bengals (home opener) and Sept. 27 against Washington. The Bengals are allowed a crowd for the Oct. 4 showdown against the Jaguars and the rematch against their cross-state rival on Oct. 25.

"This year will certainly be different, but both the Browns and Bengals have worked exceedingly hard and have made extensive preparations to welcome a limited number of fans to their stadium safely," DeWine said in a statement. "These very thorough plans and safety precautions warrant a two-game trial to try and accommodate fans, at reduced capacities with social distancing and masks."

The variance stipulates that no more than 1,500 fans can occupy each side of the stadium, and requires fans to wear a mask in accordance with state regulations and use a designated entrance for tickets.

Cincinnati later released an official statement confirming the mandate and noted that there is no update on the Sept. 13 season opener against the Chargers, which was previously deemed unfit for fans. Cleveland eventually followed suit and unveiled the "FirstEnergy Stadium Responsible Restart Plan" for gameday. Recommended time windows for entry and pre-game health screenings are among the established protocols.

"We are thrilled, particularly on behalf of our fans, that we received approval to welcome back a limited capacity of approximately 10 percent at FirstEnergy Stadium for our first two home games in September," a team spokesman wrote in part. "We will continue to closely monitor the ever-evolving circumstances related to COVID-19 and remain in frequent dialogue with each of these groups so we can properly adapt as needed with the hopes of potentially allowing more fans to attend games at a later date, if circumstances allow.

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