Spike in COVID Cases Leads to Stricter Spectator Guidelines

Athletic Department introduces regulations for winter sports fans


Shaker Heights Varsity Hockey

Students pack the stands for the hockey team’s first home game of the season Nov. 19, 2021

As the winter sports season began, fans were flooding back into the stands. In the fall season, sports spectating was back to normal, with full student sections and large crowds since most games were held outside. Now that events are inside and COVID cases have risen dramatically in the county, the district implemented new protocols.  

Effective Dec. 27, 2021, the Athletic Department limits two tickets per athlete for Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball, Cheer, Ice Hockey, and Wrestling reserved for family members only. Only one ticket is available for swimming and diving.

A significant factor in determining COVID protocols are county guidelines and COVID numbers. As of Dec. 27, 2021, the seven day average of new cases in Cuyahoga County was 3,047 cases per day according to the New York Times, a sharp increase from earlier in the month where numbers were below 1,000 cases. 

Per district policy masks are universally required in district buildings, meaning they are required for all spectators. 

Hockey home games are held at Thornton Park Ice Arena, a city-owned building. In addition to the high school mask policy, they are also required at Thornton Park because Shaker Heights mandates masks in all city buildings. 

Assistant Athletic Director Mark Enie says multiple factors influence the COVID protocols for spectators. “We take what the Board of Health recommends and the OHSAA and apply it to the district’s guidelines,” Enie said.

Before the rise in COVID cases in Cuyahoga County, spectators were allowed to attend games at full capacity where many spectators ignored the policy. “The reality is if people don’t follow or can’t follow [guidelines] we’ll adjust and decrease the number of fans that can be there,” Juli said in response. 

Tickets to all games throughout the year are now available for purchase online via the online Shaker Heights Athletics Box Office and the HomeTown ticketing app. Tickets can not be purchased with cash. Now that only two tickets are allowed per player, ”private ticket links and pass codes will be sent to each program’s head coach to distribute to athletes and their families ahead of a game,” stated the Winter Sports Protocols. 

So far many administrators feel that the online ticketing system has been very helpful especially in reducing physical contact. “The less cash that you handle at the door, the better,” Juli said. 

Another option for spectators unable to attend games are live streams via Shaker Heights Live Games. These game videos are archived for students, athletes and coaches to view after the game’s completion. With the new rise in cases additional efforts will be made to live-stream all HS athletic events according to the updated policies. 

Before crowds were limited, having spectators back in person helped bring up team morale for players this year. Senior basketball player Ayden King wrote, “I love having the crowds on gameday, it brings so much energy to me and the guys, and it makes us play harder.”

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