Governor Ralph Northam released an amended Executive Order 72 that allows outdoor sports to have up to 250 spectators or 30 percent of venue capacity, whichever is less, effective Monday. The February 17 amendment modifies language that previously allowed just two guests per player, up to 30 percent of venue capacity. Indoor sports are still limited to 25 persons per field.
The announcement comes days before schools in the Virginia High School League (VHSL) start playing football, with the first games scheduled for February 22. The VHSL is on a condensed schedule due to COVID-19 closures.
VHSL Director of Communications Mike McCall told The Virginia Star, “The VHSL is very pleased. We have been advocating for increased capacity for both indoor and outdoor events with the Governor’s office. Hopefully, as COVID continues to decline in the Commonwealth, the Governor will revisit his Order 72 and allow more spectators at events.”
McCall said spectators at high school sports play a different role than spectators at college and professional sports.
“The VHSL considers spectators to be true participants in every high school game are vitally important to that unique high school atmosphere, as are cheerleaders and the marching band. The community and the school community rally behind their high school teams,” McCall said. “That support is generational and the traditions are passed down to generation after generation.”
According to a November VHSL news release, Northam’s orders define participants as players, coaches, officials, and other staff; however cheerleaders and bands are considered spectators.
McCall said, “Spectators, cheerleaders, and the marching band are essential to high school sports and that’s why we will continue to advocate to the Governor’s office for increased attendance at all VHSL events.”
“250 spectators is an arbitrary number not based in science,” gubernatorial candidate Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said in a statement. “As the father of four boys and a former coach, I’ve seen how integral sports are to our communities.”
Cox added, “For the past year, students have been missing the camaraderie of playing for and rooting for their school’s teams. The lockdowns led by one-party Democratic control in Richmond have been devastating for the mental health of Virginia’s kids, and we ought to be returning to normalcy as quickly as possible.”
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