Parents, welcome back.

All spectators other than essential personnel have been prohibited from attending indoor youth and high school sporting events since New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order dictating those measures late last year. But now, with COVID-19 numbers improving statewide and parents voicing their frustration over not being able to attend their kids' games, those restrictions will be coming to an end.

Murphy will sign an executive order Friday that will allow parents to watch indoor and outdoor youth and high school practices and games. There has been speculation for the past week that Murphy, a father of a student-athlete himself who has expressed his empathy to parents being barred from games, would soon lift the restrictions. In January he hinted that spectators would be allowed if coronavirus numbers continued to improve.

"Today, I will sign an Executive Order to allow a limited number of parents and guardians to attend indoor and outdoor high school and other youth sporting events - effective immediately," Murphy said in posts on both Twitter and Facebook.

Only parents or guardians will be permitted. The executive order does not apply to collegiate and professional sports.

"I know many parents, especially those of our senior athletes, have been anxious to get back in the stands to cheer on their student-athletes in what may, for many, be their final season of competition," Murphy said during his Friday news briefing.

"As the metrics in our hospital and elsewhere continue to trend more positively for us we feel confident in being able to allow them to do so. This is something I have been wanting to do for our student-athletes and their biggest fans and I urge everyone to take the proper precautions. I do not want to have to reverse course - no one wants to have to reverse course - on this, but we should we see trouble spots we will have no choice and will respond as needed."

"That said we welcome our parents, after all our kids' biggest fans, back into the arena and I hope your athlete has a successful season."

NJ Advance Media was the first to report that Murphy would amend the restrictions to allow parents in as spectators and other outlets, including USA Today NJ, have since authored similar reports.

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Murphy's executive order states that school districts and other operators, namely third-party arenas for ice hockey, may allow up to two parents or guardians for each participating student-athlete under the age of 21 to attend interscholastic sporting events. Venues must remain at 35 percent capacity or under with a limit of 150 people. The individual school districts can be more restrictive if that is their determination. Public guidelines must be ahered to.

The order will go into effect immediately, so technically there could be parents at games today, Friday, Feb. 12, although schools may still need time to prepare measures such as temperature checks, contract tracing forms and more.

“NJSIAA welcomes the governor’s executive order, which provides an opportunity for limited spectators to attend high school sporting events," the state's interscholastic governing body said in a statement." We hope this order marks another positive step in the return to play.  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.”

The New Jersey high school ice hockey, bowling, and girls and boys basketball seasons are currently underway. Hockey began on January 15 while bowling and basketball started their seasons on Jan. 26. The next two sports set to begin in the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association's "Season 2" are swimming and indoor track and field, which begin competition on Tuesday.

The "Season 3" sports are wrestling, gymnastics and girls volleyball, which can start practice on March 1 and open their season on March 16.

On Feb. 3, Murphy raised the capacity limited for restaurants, gyms and other businesses from 25% to 35% with a maximum of 150 people and allowed restaurants to remain open past 10 p.m.

 

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