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Gov. Dewine calls for no fans in attendance

VIEWING — Fans witness girls basketball action between Indian Creek and Edison on Tuesday. -Joe Catullo

Despite surging COVID-19 numbers across Ohio, high school sports were given the green light to continue Tuesday afternoon by Gov. Mike DeWine.

However, that came with a condition.

DeWine said that he was advising schools that elect to proceed with winter sports on schedule — which currently is all area schools — should not permit any fans into the gymnasium or venue for any event.

DeWine said, “We would ask you (to play) without fans. If allows our student-athletes to continue to play. As much as we would like to see (the kids) play, the idea of bringing 200 adults into our gyms just makes absolutely no sense.”

A short time later, however, the Ohio High School Athletic Association, DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted got themselves on the same page, and it was determined that only parents could attend games, effective immediately until Jan. 1.

OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute encouraged the more-than 800 members to follow the governor’s request, but also said promoted the need for parents to be allowed access.

“We want to follow this recommendation so that our kids can continue to compete,” Ute said. “We believe it is crucial that parents be permitted to attend the contests of their children, but large crowds at our indoor athletic contests are not a good idea at this time. We all need to work together to give our kids and schools the best chance at having a full winter season.”

Originally, the schools were authorized to proceed as normal with winter sports under the same attendance policy they utilized during the fall, which was 15 percent of the capacity.

This policy isn’t just more strict in terms of the number, but only the student-athletes parents or legal guardians will be permitted inside. Meaning, if a child has only one parent, he or she can not give that ticket to another player.

Bellaire was one of the first area schools to issue its plan, which follows the governor’s request to the letter. The Big Reds open the home portion of their winter sports season tonight when the boys basketball team hosts Bridgeport.

Bellaire posted to its athletic website, “This will not be a ticket per athlete situation. There will be a list of parents/guardians for each athlete and cheerleader at the admission table. Only those who are on the list will be admitted.”

The OHSAA is leaving up to each school on how it wishes to enforce the governor’s plan.

In a release, the OHSAA said, “The decision for schools to move forward with sports is a local decision. Schools may certainly choose not to participate in a contest or to pause their season(s) for a period and should do what is in their best interest. The OHSAA believes that our member schools provide student-athletes with the safest possible environment to continue participating, and we all recognize the educational, physical and mental health benefits of participation.”

Girls basketball and bowling are officially under way, with boys basketball officially allowed to tipoff tonight. Swimming also is able to begin competition this weekend, and wrestling gets its go-ahead next week.

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