Family-only Fan Attendance for Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Home Sports Events This Fall

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Assuming no COVID-19-related glitches develop during the next 10 days, Chillicothe High School 2020 fall sports competitions are slated to begin Friday, Aug. 28, with the football Hornets hosting Marshall.

When they do, many fewer fans will be in the grandstands to see them happen live.

Under the Chillicothe school district’s "COVID-19 Re-entry Plan” developed this summer, fan attendance at home sports events during the fall season will be restricted to “immediate” family members of participants only. Students who are not family members will not be allowed to attend.

Specifically, for home football games, that means parents, grandparents, guardians, and siblings, spouses, children) of players, coaches, cheerleaders, and marching band, flag, and dance team members. All family members, including any students, are requested to enter the venue at the admission “gate” as a group at the same time and will need to sit as a group and be socially-distanced from other family groups.

There will be no “pep band” presence at any events. The Marching Hornets, flag corps, and dance team will be allowed to perform during halftime, but will depart following their performances, the policy states. Family members of those groups can attend, but are “encouraged to attend only the performance of their respective students” and, likewise, then depart, unless they also have a family member on the football team or/and cheerleading squad.

For volleyball, the lone indoor fall sport, any family member attending will be required to wear a face covering (mask or gaiter) to enter the gym and while inside; initially, fans at the outdoors sports venues will not be required to, but district officials note that could change, depending on changing circumstances.

In order to provide participating athletes with the highest degree of protection from contracting or spreading the coronavirus, when not actively participating in the competition, student-athletes will be required to have their school-provided “gaiters” covering their mouths and noses. In addition, off-field/court areas (dugouts, sideline “benches”) will be “expanded” as needed. Players not in on-field action will be expected to maintain “physical distancing” (6-feet of space between themselves); in football, the rules-mandated “bench” areas – between the 25-yard lines – have been expanded to between the 10-yard lines; in softball, players will be permitted to be outside of the dugout behind the out-of-play fencing down each foul line at the Daryl Danner Memorial Park field.

Dan Nagel, CHS director of athletics, points out that these requirements and guidelines apply only to Chillicothe-hosted events.

He emphasizes that each school/community/county to which CHS teams travel to compete will have their own such controls in place in regard to athletes and fans – some more restrictive and some perhaps less, both in terms of attendance eligibility and attire/distancing for fans. As variations – especially in road competitions against non-Midland Empire Conference schools – are shared with him by hosting schools, he will disseminate them to athletes’ families and the public through various means. He suggests any family member or fan heading to an out-of-town event have with them, at a minimum, a face covering.

To limit long-term-exposure to mixed crowds risks to groups of CHS athletes, none of the school’s fall-sports teams which compete solely as a team (boys’ soccer, volleyball, softball) will participate in tournaments they originally were slated to host or attend. In those cited sports, tournaments routinely involve playing multiple games or matches on the same day,  increasing their potential exposure to a wider array of possible COVID-19-contaminated persons or surfaces between competitions.

Still to be held, however, are individual-competition, multi-school events and tournaments – both home and away – in cross country running and girls’ golf and tennis.

A variety of other precautionary athlete-safety measures related to equipment, CHS facilities, and individual hygiene also have been put into place.