Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s office asked the state board of education to review its plan to allow more spectators at high school events, it was announced Wednesday.
There were no specifics on how many more fans can be in attendance. But in a news release, the governor’s office said the board of education would announce changes to the plan.
This comes after the state has seen a daily decrease in COVID-19 cases. Since Dec. 9, when the number of confirmed and probable cases hit a high-water mark of 2,298, the numbers have gone down. In Wednesday’s daily report, there were a total of 810 cases reported. Idaho has had a cumulative total of 157,588 cases since March 12, 2020.
“All of our decisions related to the Idaho Rebounds plan have been rooted in detailed metrics related to virus activity and impacts on our health care system.” Little said in a statement. “Thanks to the good actions of the people of Idaho to slow the spread of the virus in our communities, we are seeing a continued decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”
Debbie Critchfield, president of the board of education, said education groups planned to meet today, according to Idaho Education News, and she hopes to issue updated guidance by the end of the week.
According to Critchfield, she said the board will be considering gym capacity and how to be able to have more students attend athletic contests.
“I’m excited to see that we’ll be able to add more (spectators) into the gyms, recognizing that school districts, school boards ... everyone involved in the process has been able to manage their crowds and manage those things they were asked to do,” Critchfield said in the Idaho Education News story.
The issue has been a contentious one among lawmakers around Boise, and also among parents, particularly on social media, where many have complained about not being able to see their kids participate in athletics.
Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, and Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, have sponsored House Concurrent Resolution 2, which would lift crowd sizes on public gatherings, include at interscholastic athletic events. The resolution could go to the House floor for a vote today. Because it is a concurrent resolution, if it passes the House and the Senate, it would not have to go to the governor’s office for his signature.
Little, who issued a statewide order in November that limited crowd sizes to 10 people or fewer, relaxed restrictions on fan attendance at high school sporting events during the winter season starting Jan. 4, allowing for two spectators for each student-athlete.
That guidance still must be followed until the board of education issues new regulations.
The only exception at this point is wrestling tournaments, where there are no fans allowed. The exception doesn’t apply to dual meets, triangulars or quad meets.
All spectators must have masks/facial coverings when not in a seat or physically distanced, which is 12 feet from nonhousehold members.
Event areas still will be cleared after each game/contest and must be cleaned and sanitized before the next event takes place.
If districts do not comply, punishment could include forfeiture of a specific event or even forfeiting all future events during the winter season. Schools that choose not to participate in an event at a noncompliant school will not forfeit the contest.
Donn Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.