How Iowa's latest COVID-19 health measures impact high school and youth sports
In response to the explosive number of COVID-19 cases in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced new public health measures on Tuesday morning that include new mandates for youth and high school sports.
For games and events that are indoors or exceed 25 people in attendance, everybody age 2 years and older must wear a mask and maintain 6 feet distance from other spectators, Reynolds said.
Even more, only two spectators per participating youth athlete will be permitted to attend the event. However, all athletes of any age are allowed to be closer than six feet and aren't required to wear masks while competing.
These requirements go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and will hold until Monday, Nov. 30, at 11:59 p.m. — and they will apply Iowa's high school winter sports seasons, Reynolds added, which began practice this week. They won't much affect the fall sports seasons, which will finish over the next two weeks.
The girls' swimming and diving state meet is set for this weekend in Marshalltown, but due to venue capacity limits, no spectators are allowed in, according to the Iowa Girls' High School Athletic Union.
The two-tickets-per-participating-athlete rule will not apply to the state football semifinals and finals, which will run this week and next week at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, because the UNI-Dome has already implemented a mask mandate, according to a spokesman from Reynolds' office.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association had already planned for limited attendance, leaning largely on the direction and guidance of Northern Iowa officials and Black Hawk County public health officials, where the UNI-Dome is located. Those plans won't be impacted by Reynolds' latest proclamation.
“We appreciate the consideration of Governor Reynolds in allowing the University of Northern Iowa and Black Hawk County to develop plans that keep fans socially distant at the UNI-Dome,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said in a statement.
“We believe that with the seating plan and our mask mandates in place, we can conduct the state semifinals and finals games safely.”
Seating inside the UNI-Dome will be marked off to help with social distancing. Tickets were first made available to participating schools, in groups of 1-6 reserved seats to ensure proper social distancing. All remaining tickets will be made available online the day of each game. The UNI-Dome will also be cleared and cleaned between all games.
It will not be unlike how the IHSAA operated at Principal Park during the state baseball tournament. As many as 7,000 fans could possibly attend each of the 18 games scheduled to be played over the next two weeks — the UNI-Dome's capacity is 16,324.
The IHSAA and IGHSAU both previously announced various amendments to their state championship events in an effort to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, including mask mandates and social distancing requirements.
The state cross country meet, at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge, was split into two days this year to help reduce crowd size. Masks were required for entry. The state volleyball tournament also required masks for entry and when moving about Alliant Energy PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids, and for those seated in student sections.
The 2020-21 winter sports season began this week, with boys' swimming, boys' and girls' bowling and girls' basketball all starting practice on Monday. Boys' basketball and wrestling begin practice Monday.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 1,100 Iowans are hospitalized from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the state. Iowa has seen an 84% increase in hospitalizations from Oct. 25 to Sunday.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.