High school stadiums filling up as state loosens COVID-19 attendance rules

Sports

Governor John Bel Edwards has loosened coronavirus restrictions on Friday night football.

Thursday, he announced if a parish has below 5% test positivity for two consecutive weeks, capacity in the stands can double from 25% to 50%.

The decision came just in time for some school districts, but not every one in Acadiana.

It’s Homecoming week for many teams across Acadiana like Abbeville High School.

The celebration is looking a lot different because of COVID-19 also thunderstorms which took out power and postponed this game to 11 a.m. Saturday. But thankfully, because of the last moment capacity change, twice as many people will be able to enjoy it.

“I feel like we keep taking this away from our students and our goal is always to give as much as we can even in the pandemic,” said Abbeville High Principal Brett Darby.

In a year that keeps on taking, high school principals like Brett Darby are glad to get and give something back, especially for a game as important as homecoming.

Vermilion Parish is one of 26 in Louisiana who are now able to fill 50% of their stadium seating.

“We actually are on a hybrid schedule where students go every other day, so an event like this allows them to come together as a student body,” said Darby.

With 25% capacity, home tickets have sold out quickly, especially with most reserved for one or two family members of a player, band, or cheerleaders.

State Senate President Page Cortez urged the governor now was the time to give healthier states more freedoms.

“Specifically, I asked him about high school event capacities, and I asked him out mask mandates be optional in those parishes, as well as restaurant and bar capacities to be increased,” said Cortez.

“We’re trying to make sure we can expand the capacity as we can do so safely, but also tie it to the percent positivity,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Parishes below the 5% percent positivity threshold are automatically allowed to double crowd size.

Schools in Acadia Parish like Notre Dame were excited when they heard the news but quickly realized they didn’t make the cut.

“It’s hard to look at a student, a parent, or a big fan to walk in and say, ‘Sorry, we don’t have any tickets,'” said Notre Dame Head Coach Louis Cook.

The limited ticket sales are also forcing teams to do more with less, transporting teams in multiple vans to social distance with a quarter of the income. But Coach Cook says he feels worse for kids won’t be able to have this year. Parades and dances have been can’t happen.

“For an old man like me, it’s not hard to just adjust and go with it, but for the kids, that’s part of growing up,” said Cook.

And those things don’t even change even at 50% capacity, so they are punting many celebrations to 2021.”

“It’s been frustrating for us, and we’re just trying to give our students the best experience possible,” said Darby.

The Abbeville team was really looking forward to playing tonight, but Principal Darby said a rain and power outage are par for the course in 2020.

Thankfully, homecoming is rescheduled to Saturday at 11 a.m.

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