VHSL Clarifies Spectator Rules

In preparing for the upcoming winter sports season, scheduled to start on Dec. 21, the Virginia High School League sent out a statement on Friday to clarify who counts as a spectator and who counts as a participant.

A week earlier, following the announcement of new COVID-19 restrictions by Gov. Ralph Northam, including that all gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun sent out a message that this number applies to spectators at sporting events, not participants. Previously, up to 250 individuals were allowed at a gathering. Also, in the governor’s latest restrictions, children between the ages of 5 and 9 were added to those required to wear masks in indoor settings.

The governor’s order defines participants as players, coaches, officials, school event staff and school administration critical to the operations of the contests, media, law enforcement and medical services. Cheerleaders, pep bands and other student support groups are counted as spectators in the limit of 25 allowed at events.

The amended Executive Order 67 guidelines for recreational sports emphasizes that sports activities are permitted but must comply with the following requirements:

1. The total number of spectators cannot exceed the lesser of 30 percent of the occupancy load of the certificate of occupancy for the venue, if applicable, or 25 spectators per field. Races or marathons may have up to 250 participants, provided staggered starts separate runners into groups of 25 or less.

2. Screening of coaches, officials, staff and players for COVID-19 symptoms must be conducted prior to their admission to the venue/ facility.

Both athletic directors at the two local high schools, Rockbridge County and Parry McCluer, said last week that there would be lots of discussion before determining which spectators would be allowed at events. Both schools also plan to stream sporting events online so that fans can watch and listen from home.

The News-Gazette

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