The TSSAA, in conjunction with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s office, will be releasing new guidelines regarding who is permitted to attend indoor high school sports events.
That announcement came from Lee on Sunday evening. It will limit the number of people who can be in a gymnasium to watch high school sports as COVID-19 cases surge in Tennessee.
“I believe high school sports are an important part of our kids’ lives, and they should continue,” Lee said. “But in coordination with the TSSAA, we are limiting attendance in indoor sporting events.”
It marks the first time since Lee signed Executive Order No. 55 to allow contact sports to resume in late July that he addressed high school sports with an order.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said he has been in contact with the governor’s office about the restriction but would not announce specifics on Sunday about who can attend games.
“We need to read the entire order and work with their team to make sure it is correct,” wrote Childress in a text message Sunday evening after Lee addressed the state. “Hopefully, we will get the order (Monday).
“I just got off the phone with (the governor’s office).”
Lee’s executive order permits that game, school and facility administrators be allowed to attend games along with athletic officials, coaching and team personnel, parents, guardians and other immediate household members of athletes competing at the venues on that date. Media and athletic scouting personnel attending the event in a professional capacity and first responders may also be present within the facility.
However, those attending must practice social distancing of 6 feet of separation from people outside their household.
Schools and the TSSAA may further limit physical capacity as deemed necessary to protect public health, the order says.
Prior to the executive order, the TSSAA has mandated that masks be worn at all high school events.
The executive order keeps high school sports from closing down at a time when the coronavirus has spiked after Thanksgiving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that Tennessee’s current COVID-19 outbreak is the worst in the United States with 129 new infections per 100,000 residents in the past seven days. Oklahoma is second with 98 per day.
The Tennessee Department of Health announced 9,689 new cases in the past 24 hours on Sunday. That included 54 new deaths. More than 6,000 Tennesseans have died from COVID-19.
There are currently 2,893 hospitalizations because of COVID-19.
While Lee’s executive order kept sports being played, some areas of the state have chosen to not play right now. Shelby County Schools hasn’t allowed middle and high school sports all school year.
In Davidson County, high school basketball hasn’t started for Metro Nashville Public Schools. MNPS also delayed fall sports into the end of September. Wilson County has stopped games until January, but will allow teams to practice.
In Knox County, high school sports have been shut down until Jan. 5.
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-259-8089 or [email protected] and on Twitter @Kreager.