Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced during a Tuesday press conference that all organized sports — high school and otherwise, contact and non-contact — will be able to move forward.
Though the full order will not be available until later this week, DeWine said the order, which takes effect Friday, focuses on providing Ohio school districts and other organizers with the “best advice” for how to conduct sports seasons during the coronavirus pandemic.
DeWine said he and other officials believe that, though sports — especially contact sports — can increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread, sports are important to students and their communities and can provide student-athletes with discipline, structure and joy. DeWine added that, were sports not allowed to move forward, student-athletes would “obviously be doing something else with their time.”
“Our goal is to focus on the student and to focus on the school and provide them the best opportunity we can so that young person can participate,” DeWine said. “No one can guess what the future’s going to be. We can’t guess, frankly, what the situation is going to be or how far into the season we’ll be able to get — if we can get all the way into the season, we certainly hope right now — nor can we predict if things will be better when it would come time to play these sports in the spring, but this order simply allows sports to move forward.”
DeWine said some Ohio superintendents and families have expressed a desire to move contact sports like football, soccer and field hockey to the spring, and according to DeWine, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has given schools permission to move such sports to the spring.
“We have heard it expressed from some superintendents that they would like to have a season, but they don’t want to have a season now. We’ve certainly heard from other schools and other parents who say, ‘We want that season now. We think this is the best thing to happen for many, many, many reasons,’” DeWine said. “We have noticed that a good number of our city schools have decided not to go back in person and they’ve also decided not to have fall sports, so if there was no opportunity in the spring to play — again, we can’t predict the future; we don’t know what that’s going to look like — but there is hope. They will at least have hope and, we hope, actually a season. They’ve already made the decision not to play in the fall, so we don’t want to exclude those children either. We want to give them the hope and opportunity to also have a season.”
DeWine also said that the order will instruct schools to limit the number of spectators present at sporting events. Under the order, athletes’ family members and other loved ones will be the only spectators permitted at sporting events.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has put the focus exactly where it should be: on young people, letting them play. It’s also important, I believe, that that young person have someone there if possible to support them,” DeWine said. “Many times, it’s family members. Sometimes, it may be someone else who’s very, very close to the family or very, very close to that particular young person. When our order comes out, you will see that we will not have spectators other than family members or people very close to that particular child. We’ll leave that, of course, up to the school for how to do that.”
The order will also allow the families and loved ones of marching band, drill team, and other half-time performers to spectate during sporting events.
In other news from the press conference:
* TourismOhio created a women’s history road trip, which includes eight stops throughout the state. Learn more by visiting ohio.org.
* Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine encouraged parents to participate in the Ohio Imagination Library, which provides children with books each month from the time they are born to the time they reach 5 years old. The program is free. Find more information at ohioimaginationlibrary.org.
* There have been 861 new cases of COVID-19 and 39 more COVID-19-related deaths in Ohio in the last 24 hours, DeWine said.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.