Gatherings

Fans gather for an Appomattox Raiders varsity football game at Bragg Stadium in 2019. Due to new COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings announced by Gov. Ralph Northam, fan attendance at games in the upcoming season could be affected if the restrictions are not amended.

On Oct. 30, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed the fourth amended Executive Order 67 which includes changes to Section 12 related to recreational sports. These changes allow the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Championship + 1 schedule to begin playing in December as scheduled. 

The VHSL has released its “Guidelines for Return to Participation” for school divisions. This document will provide guidance for our schools to ensure a safe reopening of sports and activities.

“Keeping our student athletes safe is critical during this pandemic,” said Northam. “I know I join many parents in looking forward to the safe return of school sports. VHSL has been a tremendous partner throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness and diligence they have put in development of these guidelines for returning to play.”

“This amendment by the governor clears the way for all of our sports to play,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun. “We appreciate the time, effort, and input staff received while preparing this document. Adherence to these guidelines will offer a safe reopening for our students, coaches, staff, officials, and communities once we start playing in December. Additionally, we appreciate the close collaboration and guidance from the Governor’s office, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).”

On Friday, however, Northam announced a tightening of COVID-19 guidlines that limits public and private gatherings to 25 people, down from 250. That guideline will affect the number of spectators allowed at events but not the number of participants, according to a report on the VHSL website. 

The modifications outlined in “Guidelines for Return to Participation” are meant to decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets by encouraging social distancing, limiting participation in administrative tasks to essential personnel and allowing for appropriate protective equipment. Recommendations include cleaning and disinfecting, mask protocols, transportation and how to run activities safely for individual sports and activities.

Teams conducting out-of-season workouts will continue to abide by Phase 3 Guidelines as established by the VHSL and the Virginia Department of Health, regardless of established adjustments allowed for in-season teams to conduct regular season and postseason events.

In preparing this document, VHSL staff received input from VHSL and NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committees (SMAC), the NCAA, the Virginia Department of Health, USA Football, USA Field Hockey, US Lacrosse, USA Wrestling, the National Wrestling Coaches Association, VHSL school administrators, and VHSL coaches advisory committees.

For more information on VHSL sports and updates, visit www.vhsl.org, call 434-977-8475 or fax 434-977-5943.

If you want more content like this, support local journalism by purchasing the Times Virginian newspaper at a local newsstand or subscribing at www.timesvirginian.com/subscriber_services to receive the print edition and/or e-edition version.