Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday contact sports like football and soccer can play games this fall but didn’t offer many specifics, as the order was still being drafted by the Ohio Department of Health.
School districts found out the specifics on Wednesday afternoon.
The Ohio Department of Health released its order on Wednesday, which includes limits to how many spectators can be admitted to athletic events. The ODH order, which was issued by interim director Lance Himes, applies to all youth, amateur, club, prep, collegiate and professional sporting events in the state.
For outdoor events, crowds will be limited to 15 percent of a stadium’s fixed seated capacity up to a maximum of 1,500 people. All high school stadiums in Shelby County fall below the 1,500 people cap.
The order’s 15-percent limit will cap the attendance of games at 7,000-seat Sidney Memorial Stadium to 1,050 spectators. The attendance cap of games at Fort Loramie and Anna’s stadiums, which each have a fixed seating of a little more than 2,000, will be about 315.
Indoor events will be limited to 15 percent of a gymnasium’s fixed seated capacity up to a limit of 300 people.
“The primary purpose of permitting Sports (sic) spectators is to allow and encourage the family and household members and loved ones of players, coaches, team staff members, officials, and other event participants (band, honor guard, etc.) to observe and share in the experience,” the order states.
The order states physical separation must be maintained throughout venues and seating must be arranged to allow six feet of space between groups. Seating must have staggered rows and sections to prevent contact between groups.
Groups of up to four people can sit together, though members of the same household may sit together and are not subject to the four-person limit applied to all other groups.
The order permits football and soccer to be played. Before Wednesday’s order, both sports were deemed contact sports by the ODH and hadn’t been cleared for competition. Traditional high school fall sports of volleyball, cross county, golf and girls tennis had been deemed non-contact sports and had been cleared for competition earlier this summer.
It’s the first time since COVID-19 safety protocols were ordered in March that all sporting events are allowed to take place.
The 12-page order also includes many other restrictions. Six feet of physical distancing must be conducted by all participants when not actively playing and all coaches, officials and spectators. Face coverings must be worn by all except for when participants are actively playing, no off-the-field physical contact by participants like high-fives or team huddles is allowed and equipment, food, water bottles and towels can’t be shared by players.
The order states that participants, coaches, athletic trainers, officials and spectators must conduct daily symptom assessments before each practice or game and must stay home if feeling COVID-19 symptoms, which include, “fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficult breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.”
The order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday.
Ohio will be one of few states with all fall sports starting as scheduled. Thirty-six states have postponed the start of fall sports to various degrees. Fifteen states (including Michigan) have postponed football to spring.
Boys and girls golf squads and girls tennis were allowed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association to start earlier this month. Volleyball is scheduled to begin Friday and cross country is scheduled to begin next week. Those sports were declared non-contact by the state government, which granted sports in that category permission for competitions in June.
Boys and girls soccer is scheduled by the OHSAA to begin Friday. Football is scheduled to kick off next week.
OHSAA releases information on contact sports, DeWine’s Tuesday announcement
The Ohio High School Athletic Association released information late Tuesday on contact sports following DeWine’s announcement earlier in the day.
Among the biggest items in the OHSAA’s release is that football squads will be allowed to conduct one scrimmage on either Friday or Saturday. The OHSAA banned scrimmages in late July since the state government hadn’t cleared the sport for games.
The OHSAA also addressed DeWine’s Tuesday announcement that school districts that wish to play fall sports next spring may do so.
“The OHSAA is prepared to remove the impediments in our bylaws and regulations that would otherwise preclude schools from playing fall sports in the spring. In other words, schools that have opted out of fall sports participation due to the pandemic — meaning the school has not participated in fall sports during the currently defined fall season — will have an opportunity to play their sports in the spring,” the release stated.
“However, a task force will be needed to work with our staff to create certain parameters to see what those spring sports opportunities look like. As the pandemic has proved, this is an evolving situation, so more details will be shared with the membership when appropriate.”
The association also announced it was capping the amount of athletes that will be allowed to dress for games. Sixty players will be allowed to dress for football squads, while 22 players will be allowed to dress in soccer and 15 will be allowed to dress in volleyball.
In addition, marching and pep bands can only perform at their school’s home athletic events.
“The OHSAA is moving forward because we want kids to have an opportunity to participate, and the governor’s office is providing that opportunity and a chance,” OHSAA interim director Bob Goldring said in a release.
“So for that we are most appreciative. It’s important to remember that our student-athletes have been practicing and training with others for weeks and even months, and it has gone well. So, we believe they deserve the chance to move forward, and that the high school space is also different than the collegiate space.
“COVID-19 certainly has created a risk factor, and that is something on which each family has to decide for their student, and each local school district has to make decisions on moving forward based on all the information they have been presented.
“But we also believe our student-athletes, coaches and school administrators …are suited to be the best advocates for safety, strongly promoting and following mandates and recommendations to wear facial coverings, stay socially distanced and so forth. Our coaches, especially, are role models to so many of our student-athletes. So hopefully our student-athletes will follow their lead and guidance, especially when they talk to students about what to consider away from school.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.