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Congressmen urge Gov. Northam to allow more fans at high school sports games

Reps. Ben Cline and Bob Good represent parts of Southwest and Central Virginia

Rep. Ben Cline and Rep. Bob Good want to increase the maximum number of spectators allowed at games to 50% capacity or 500 people.

ROANOKE, Va. – After Gov. Ralph Northam recently loosened COVID-19 restrictions for outdoor high school sporting events, some Virginia Congressmen feel they’re still too restrictive.

On Thursday, Rep. Ben Cline and Rep. Bob Good, both Republicans, wrote to the Democratic governor urging him to increase the maximum number of spectators allowed at games to 50% capacity or 500 people.

He also pushed for Northam to follow CDC’s 6-foot distancing guidelines instead of 10 feet that’s currently in Executive Order 72.

The order currently allows outdoor high school sports to have 30% of the occupancy load or a maximum of 250 spectators per field.

“Every student-athlete deserves the opportunity to play the sport he or she loves while being safely cheered on by their family and friends, especially during a time that has taken a significant mental toll on our Nation’s youth,” Cline said. “Governor Northam’s decision to require 10-foot distancing and allow no more than 250 fans at an outdoor stadium that potentially holds thousands is insufficient. I strongly urge the Governor to revise his Executive Order to increase attendance capacity at outdoor high school sporting events, as well as call for him to follow the CDC’s social distancing guidance of six feet instead of ten. Precautions are still necessary, but they must also be reasonable.”

The letter also stated that labeling cheerleaders and band members as spectators may take away from their performance.

“We can all agree that the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed our way of life for the last year, but it has been especially hard on students who have had to adapt to virtual learning, isolation from friends and missing out on milestones that all students look forward to in their high school careers,” they said in a letter to Northam.

But Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District Director Dr. Cynthia Morrow says there is still a risk of COVID-19 transmission for players taking the field.

Earlier this week northside high school had to suspend all activities after members of the football program tested positive.

“It’s critically important that parents, players and schools all recognize that we are not out of the woods, and that they do everything that they can to decrease the risk of COVID on the field,” Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District Director Dr. Cynthia Morrow said.

Read the full text of Cline and Good’s letter below:

Dear Governor Northam:

We write regarding your decision to amend Executive Order 72, which would allow for more spectators to attend school sporting events. While we welcome this change, we are concerned that the rules regarding spectators at outdoor high school sporting events is too restrictive in terms of who qualifies as a “spectator”. We are particularly concerned that the Executive Order also directs that people sit 10 feet apart outdoors, which is more restrictive than guidance from the Centers for Disease Control to keep a distance of “6 feet of space between yourself and others at all times.”

As you know, several high school fall sports kicked off a welcomed spring season this past week. For these students, the opportunity to play a sport they love and to do so in front of their parents, family, and friends is an invaluable experience. Our communities are especially supportive of the boys and girls who play these sports, and many look forward to these games each week.

In addition to the students who play on these teams, cheerleaders and band members have been designated as “spectators,” therefore limiting their ability to perform in an activity they equally love and work tirelessly to perfect.

We can all agree that the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed our way of life for the last year, but it has been especially hard on students who have had to adapt to virtual learning, isolation from friends, and missing out on milestones that all students look forward to in their high school careers.

Therefore, we ask that you consider amending your executive order to increase to 50 percent capacity or 500 people, whichever is greater, at outdoor school sporting events. We believe that everyone involved will work to ensure the safety of students, coaches, and spectators alike, and we appreciate your attention to this matter.

Reps. Ben Cline and Bob Good

About the Author:

Jazmine Otey joined the 10 News team in February 2021.