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Allowing Some Fans at Games

High school football is one of the highlights of autumn in our area. By the thousands on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, fans troop to stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams, often young men they know or to whom they are related.

But this year, we do not know yet whether there will be high school football in either West Virginia or Ohio. Though many teams have begun preparing for kickoffs, public health officials could blow the whistle on fall sports in both our states, because of COVID-19. Some individual school districts in Ohio already have canceled football for this year.

If Buckeye State teams are allowed to take the field, however, they will be playing in a surreal environment — with no fans.

Ohio Department of Health officials have issued an order prohibiting spectators at contact sports games. That applies to everyone, by the way — from high school up through the pros; and it applies until the state of emergency regarding COVID-19 is lifted in the Buckeye State.

Of course it makes sense to limit the number of people packed into the stands screaming at the field. But does it make sense to eliminate spectators entirely? Why not limit attendance to two people per player, with masks and temperature checks required; and taped seating at least 10 feet apart?

No one envies those trying to make the right decisions for stopping the spread of this virus once school is back in session. And, again, such an order makes sense for the college and pro sports. But if we are going to allow these kids to go out and play a game that involves running (and therefore breathing heavily) and tackling — if we are going to allow them to play a contact sport — why can’t we let their families watch them safely?

There is good reason to be cautious about reopening sports, as we have been with everything else. Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health are right to put restrictions in place for sporting events, too. They should do so, however, with a little common sense.

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