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Northam clears way for return of high school sports

Ralph S. Northam

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an amended executive order Thursday, Oct. 29, that will allow the Virginia High School League’s (VHSL) Championship + 1 schedule to begin in December as intended.

A VHSL press release stated Northam signed the fourth amended Executive Order 67, which includes changes to Section 12 related to recreational sports, and it is these changes that have made the schedule possible.

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

“Keeping our student-athletes safe is critical during this pandemic,” Northam said. “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 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,” VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said. “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,” he continued. “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.”

The amended executive order did not change the number of attendees permitted at a sporting event, which cannot exceed the lesser of 50% of the occupancy load or 250 persons. For sports played on a field, attendees are limited to 250 persons per field.

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 VDH, regardless of established adjustments allowed for in-season teams to conduct regular season and postseason events.

In preparing the guidelines for the return, VHSL staff received input from VHSL and National Federation of State High School Associations Sports Medicine Advisory committees, the NCAA, the VDH, USA Football, USA Field Hockey, U.S. Lacrosse, USA Wrestling, the National Wrestling Coaches Association, VHSL school administrators and VHSL coaches advisory committees.

To read the “Guidelines for Return to Participation” in full, visit www.VHSL.org.