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Murphy announces return of parent spectators for indoor sports in New Jersey
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Murphy announces return of parent spectators for indoor sports in New Jersey

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The wait is finally over for parents of winter sports student-athletes.

Parents may now attend indoor high school and youth sporting events, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday ahead of his COVID-19 briefing with state officials.

“I know many parents, especially those of our senior athletes, have been anxious to get back into the stands to cheer on their student-athletes in what may, for many, be their final season of competition,” Murphy said. “As the metrics in our hospitals and elsewhere continue to trend more positively for us, we feel confident in being able to allow them to do so.”

According to protocols from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, up to two parents or guardians per participating athlete may attend, effective immediately.

School districts, however, reserve the right to be more restrictive with their facilities if needed.

While fielding questions at the end of the briefing, Murphy was asked how parents and students should feel about having limited access to schools while still being able to attend games.

“I don’t think either-or in this case,” Murphy said while pointing out that more than three-quarters of the state’s school districts offer in-person instruction in some capacity. “We know that the mental health toll has been enormous, and that’s not just in the realm of sports, being able to play them and being able to have your mom and dad see you play them. But we do know that’s something that a lot of folks are just desperate to do.

“Let’s safely and responsibly get as many of our schools to in-person instruction as soon as we can safely and responsibly do so in this extraordinary, stressful year; but also, if we can allow moms and dads in to watch (games), that’s also a good thing.”

Murphy said the NJSIAA and his administration had several discussions over his latest executive order.

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“We hope this order marks another positive step in the return to play,” the NJSIAA said in a news release. “At the same time, we urge parents to give our member schools time to review the governor’s order and determine both overall feasibility and a specific process for increasing occupancy as outlined.”

Last week, the governor signed an executive order increasing the capacity limit for a number of indoor activities to 35%. Interscholastic sporting events will abide by the same limit but may not exceed 150 people in a venue.

“I’m excited for the parents to have the ability to watch their children in person,” said Egg Harbor Township athletic director and Cape-Atlantic League President Mike Pellegrino. “As a parent of former high school student-athletes, those memories are sacred. The CAL athletic directors are currently preparing plans to ensure the safety of our players, coaches and parents abiding by current (Department of Health) guidelines,” including the use of masks and social distancing.

Last year, Murphy banned indoor sports for a month as cases of the coronavirus began to swell in the state. Last month, he suggested the state was moving closer to allowing spectators to return to games, which resumed Jan. 2.

Parents of senior athletes would be given priority.

Holy Spirit High School athletic director Steve Normane said the Absecon school will take a few days to prepare for fan attendance, targeting Tuesday as the first day.

“As we have done every step of the way since June 20,” Normane tweeted, “we will make this happen in a safe and positive manner for all involved. Please keep in mind, three CAL basketball programs were quarantined just yesterday, so safety and precaution are our number one priority.”

Like the governor, Spirit boys basketball coach Jamie Gillespie pointed out how significant this move is for senior athletes.

“This has been a difficult situation for high school players across the state,” Gillespie said. “Each fan that is allowed into the gym is one more step toward normalcy for our players. Having in-person support from their families will be a much-needed boost to the game day experience. We are excited that our players’ families will be with us the rest of the way, especially our senior parents.”

Staff Writer Michael McGarry contributed to this report.

Contact Ahmad Austin:

609-272-7404

AAustin@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressAustin

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