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Governor increases attendance limit for outdoor sporting events

High school sports fans can soon begin to return to outdoor events in larger numbers.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday afternoon that Executive Order 195 will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. Among the changes in the order is that outdoor athletic venues can now allow attendance at up to 30 percent of spectator capacity.

Polk County Schools officials estimate that will mean 900-1,000 fans will be allowed to attend events at G.M. Tennant Stadium beginning next week. School and district personnel are working to determine how Cooper’s order will impact gameday procedures as well as how many fans will be allowed to attend Polk County Middle School events at Utz Field.

Polk County High is scheduled to hold three outdoor sporting events in the next week – boys soccer on March 3 and March 4 and the Wolverine football program with its home opener against East Rutherford on Friday, March 5.

The new order is per-venue, so Polk County home softball games, for example, will only be allowed 30 percent of seating at that field.

Fans will still be required to wear masks at all outdoor events, per the governor’s order, but Cooper did eliminate a 10 p.m. curfew that had been in place.

“The NCHSAA is grateful for the improvements in the state’s Covid-19 metrics,” said Commissioner Que Tucker. “These improvements provide the opportunities for North Carolina’s students to return to the classroom in many cases and resume the optimal learning environment that in-person learning provides. We are also excited for the opportunity to allow parents and some fans from the community the opportunity to attend sporting events in-person to support their loved ones.

“This has been a difficult year, and we know that the limitations have had particularly harsh effects on student-athletes and their families. We are ready to allow some since of normalcy for these groups, and thankful that we have reached this point as a state. However, we want to do our part to make sure that this step forward does not lead to a step backwards. Simply put, we cannot afford further setbacks.

“On behalf of our student-athletes, our coaches, and athletic administrators, we ask citizens across our state to support their local high school teams by following the Governor’s and DHHS’s guidance which continues to be designed to limit the spread of Covid-19. As we begin relaxing some restrictions on spectators, please diligently work together to keep these opportunities available for student-athletes and spectators by wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and washing your hands regularly. If we continue to work together and respect those around us by following these simple steps, we are confident that our state will defeat this pandemic.”

The previous executive order limited attendance at outdoor high school sports events to 100 people. With the delayed football regular season set to start Friday, calls for raising the limit on fans had grown louder of late.

Legislators in both branches of the North Carolina Legislature had, in recent days, introduced bills that would allow more fans to attend outdoor sporting events.

By Andy Rhinehart

andy@polksports.com