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Were sectional basketball games violating Indiana COVID-19 guidelines?

When a county is in “blue,” there is minimal community spread, and current activities may continue.

DAVIESS COUNTY, Ind. — It was a big week in high school basketball as ISHAA sectional games kicked off across the state. The games drew hundreds of fans to see the most-talented teams. However, the games also caused some concern after photos of packed bleachers and maskless fans appeared on social media.

One video on Twitter was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. It shows a North Daviess sectional game with fans packed together and some without a mask. The Friday night game was sold out.

Some fans are worried history could repeat itself after last year’s Sectional 10 was played at Lawrence Central and likely became a "super spreader" event. Five people who attended died from COVID-19 weeks later.

According to North Daviess High School, the county’s department of health approved their plan. North Daviess was allowed 1,600 total capacity per game on Tuesday and Friday. Each school was given 730 tickets. On Saturday, the county health department allowed even more fans with each school receiving 1,000 tickets.

The school’s policy requires face coverings upon entrance and while watching the game. The only time masks can be taken off is while eating or drinking.

So how does fan capacity at IHSAA games work? According to IHSAA COVID-19 guidelines, spectator seating is at the discretion of the host school with guidance from local health officials. Organizers with more than 500 people in attendance are required to submit a plan to their local health officials.

Schools also need to look at the state’s color-coded map to determine if there are capacity restrictions in their county. When a county is in “blue,” there is minimal community spread, and current activities may continue. The state advises that the events still need to adhere to guidelines including: social distancing, face coverings and plans to mitigate COVID-19. 

Blue county guidelines March 1-31

  • All general requirements are in effect.
  • Social gatherings are recommended to be no more than 250 people.
  • Events and social gatherings may take place at up to 100 percent capacity when all other guidelines, including social distancing, face coverings and plans to mitigate COVID-19 are in place. 
  • K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular activities, community recreational sports, and college and professional sports, are included, and should be coordinated with local health departments. 
  • Communities should evaluate the source of positive tests, undertake targeted testing, quarantine, and isolate.

That’s why at some games, there are 1,000 fans and at others, it’s capped at 200. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, in Marion County at Arsenal Tech High School, each team is allowed 400 tickets with fans sitting in the upper deck. The gym is also cleared out in between games. Marion County now allows 50 percent capacity in gyms. Seating is divided by schools. All tickets are pre-sold and not at the door.

As cases and hospitalizations drop and more people become vaccinated, more counties are expected to ease capacity restrictions.