ORLANDO, Fla. — High school football teams are back on the field practicing across Central Florida for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Local school districts have come up with different ways to keep players and fans safe when games resume this week.
Channel 9 compiled information from local school districts about everything you need to know before the play clock starts:
Seminole County Public Schools is not implementing mandatory COVID-19 testing of football players. However, the district announced that it does have protocols in place for practices and games, which include masking, social distancing, sanitizing stations and more.
The district said that any player that tests positive must be out for 14 days and cannot return until they test negative and are cleared by health professionals. Officials said they also have self-quarantine guidelines that would apply to any other players who may have been exposed to a positive individual, whom the district would work with the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County to identify.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to attend a Seminole County high school football game:
- Face coverings are mandatory.
- Social distancing must be practiced.
- Frequent hand-washing and sanitizer use is encouraged.
- Stands will be at 35-50% capacity (some stadiums are larger than others and can accommodate more fans via social distancing).
- The district is using ticketless entry through the app GoFan.co. Attendees must purchase tickets in advance.
- Schools will be using FanFood for concession purchases.
- The school band will be present, but in the form of a smaller pep band that is socially distanced, typically behind the goal posts. The district said bands will rotate kids each game.
- Cheerleaders and dance teams will be present but socially distanced across the sidelines.
Orange County Public Schools is rapid testing football players for COVID-19, getting results of the tests within 15 minutes.
“We’re using the same process and protocols that we use if we get a positive that comes in from a parent just from an independent doctor or from a testing center," said Scott Howat with Orange County Public Schools.
Channel 9 asked how many positive players it would take for the school to cancel a game.
“There’s no threshold for that,” Howart said. “We’re working with the department of health and Dr. Pino’s office in making sure that we’re following his guidance. If he feels like the entire team needs to be quarantined or a certain segment of the team.”
And what about the players on the other side of the line who may or may not be tested in their districts?
“What we can’t control is what’s happening in other teams, other districts,” Howart said. “We just hope they’re taking all the necessary precautions as they play our teams.”
On Wednesday, the district announced it was canceling its second football game due to COVID-19. The decision came as a result of positive COVID-19 cases which resulted in quarantines among the Evans High School football team, who was scheduled to play West Orange High School.
That marks the second game of the season to be canceled after Olympia High School shut down out of an abundance of caution after several students tested positive for COVID-19.
The Osceola school district is partnering with HomeTown Ticketing for fans to purchase tickets online for high school athletic events taking place in its on-campus stadiums, gymnasiums, and baseball and softball fields.
The district said the contactless purchasing option allows spectators the ability to either print their tickets at home or use mobile entry tickets for safe, no-touch redemption at the gate. To purchase online tickets, individuals can visit their high school’s athletic website for specific game information. Tickets purchased online can be easily shared with family and friends via text.
The district said that attendance at sporting events will be limited to 50% capacity to allow for social distancing by fans. Due to this maximum capacity limit, tickets will not be sold at the gate. All tickets must be pre-purchased, either online or by visiting the school in person during the week prior to the sporting event.
The district said fans will also be able to view livestreams of games taking place in high school stadiums and gymnasiums in Osceola County, as well as across Florida and the nation, on nfhsnetwork.com. Subscriptions can be purchased per month or for the year, and individuals are encouraged to click on their school’s athletic website when purchasing the ticket so proceeds will go back to the school’s general athletic fund.
The district said the following COVID-19 requirements will be in place for all Osceola school district sporting events:
- All spectators will be required to wear masks while at the athletic event.
- Social distancing of at least six feet is required while attending the event unless spectators are sitting with their immediate family or people from their household.
- Every other row will be utilized for seating in the stands.
- Temperature checks may be required upon entrance to the sporting event.
- No backpacks are allowed.
After a delayed start to the fall athletics season, Volusia County Schools will host its first football games on Friday.
The district said it adapting some game day policies in response to COVID-19.
Officials said all tickets must be purchased in advance, and the number of tickets is limited. Tickets can be purchased electronically through the GoFan website Monday through Wednesday (each school will publicize the link particular to their game) at a cost of $6 per ticket plus a $1 service fee. While supplies last, tickets can be purchased at school Thursday and until 4 p.m. Friday at a cost of $6. Tickets will not be sold at the gate.
The district said stadium capacity will be limited to allow for social distancing, and face coverings and temperature checks will be required. Concessions will offer prepackaged items.
Marching bands will participate in home games only. The football teams and sideline cheerleaders will attend both home and away games.
The district said these health and safety procedures will apply to all fall sports – football, girls' volleyball, cross-country, swimming and diving, golf, and bowling.
Lake County Schools has a long list of protocols in place to keep spectators and student athletes safe:
- Capacity: Reported capacity allowing for social distancing varied based upon the different facilities. All spectators/families will be expected to be socially distanced at an event.
- Tickets and passes: Participating student-athletes should receive between 2-4 passes for spectators based on capacity. First-come first-serve ticketing process will only be used if expected attendance is below the socially distanced capacity.
- Seating: Socially distanced seating will be clearly marked. Spectators from the opposing teams will be kept separate from the home spectators to the greatest extent possible. No spectators will be allowed on or around the field of play.
- Entry: Separate gates will be used for entry and exit, and supervision and security will be at the entry gate at high traffic times. Individuals working the ticket gates will wear proper PPE (gloves, mask, face shield). Individuals will be required to have a face covering at the time of entry. Face covering may be removed when at a social distance from others. Temperature checks will occur for all spectators upon entry. Hand sanitizer will be available at the entry gate. Spectators will not be permitted to congregate on the field following the event.
- Athletes: Athletes will be screened for symptoms, and temperature checked within 2 hours of the contest. Athletes will have their own water bottle marked with their name or number as well as assigned seats on the sideline that will be spaced appropriately. Those who do not participate will wear a mask when not socially distanced on the sideline following an appropriate cooldown period following activity. Athletes will not wear a mask while participating in physical activity
- Coaches: Coaches will wear mask or face covering on the sideline and are expected to follow and promote compliance with all protocols.
- Band: The band will be socially distanced in designated areas during the game and while awaiting halftime performance. ○ Only band instructors, bandmembers, and approved volunteers will be in the area designated for band activities. Band members will remain socially distanced during scheduled breaks.
- Cheer: Cheerleaders will be socially distanced on the sidelines. ○ Stunting and building will be allowed. However, individual cheerleaders may elect not to participate in activities involving stunting and building.
Here’s what you need to know before heading to a game in Polk County, according to the school district:
- Attendance at athletic competitions will be limited to allow for social distancing of at least 6 feet between individuals who are not from the same household. Spectators will not be allowed to attend practices.
- Spectators must wear wear a mask or face covering to attend games and will be required to exit the venue after the contest; fans will not be allowed on the field. Congregating before or after games will not be permitted.
- Spectators are asked to conduct a self-assessment for COVID-19 symptoms before attending a competition. Anyone experiencing symptoms must stay home. Signs will be posted at the gate to remind attendees about these procedures.
- Tickets for the general public will be available at the gate on a first-come, first-served basis. Families of student-athletes will be provided the opportunity to purchase up to four tickets per rostered player and cheerleader. These tickets will be made available via pre-sale or at the gate. Families of marching band members (who are performing at the game) will also have the opportunity to purchase up to four tickets per student.
- Concession stands will be available with a limited number of items for sale. Restrooms will be open, but we ask attendees to avoid forming lines or crowds.
- For additional information, please contact your school’s athletics department.
Flagler-Palm Coast High School and Matanzas High School will face off against each other Friday night.
The school district said the capacity at each school’s stadium will be less than 20%.
They said those entering the stadiums will have to wear a face covering, but no temperatures will be taken.
Officials said if attendees can maintain proper social distancing in the stands, they can remove their face coverings.
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