Over COVID concerns, APS to ban fans from athletic events for two weeks - Albuquerque Journal

Over COVID concerns, APS to ban fans from athletic events for two weeks

In deference to the rampaging omicron variant of COVID-19, Albuquerque Public Schools on Tuesday announced that it is banning fans from high school sporting events for the next two weeks.

While fans were permitted into games and events on Tuesday night — except at Eldorado — the ban begins with Wednesday’s schedule and will extend through Wednesday, Feb. 2. This includes sports and activities.

“We want to keep our kids playing,” APS Superintendent Scott Elder told the Journal. “We really want to keep kids in school, because that’s the most important thing, and two, we want to allow kids to stay in the activities they enjoy.”

Scott Elder

But for those sports and activities at APS sites — basketball games, wrestling meets, and also this weekend’s boys Albuquerque Metro Swimming/Diving Championships at the West Mesa Aquatic Center —fans are going to have to find some other way to watch.

Elder said a few high schools at APS are approaching a 5% COVID-19 positive threshold among the student body, which would necessitate a restriction of fans. Eldorado was already at 5%, and the Eagles played in a fan-less game on Saturday at Volcano Vista, and again Tuesday night for a District 2-5A home opener versus Piedra Vista.

Hence, with positive cases skyrocketing, Elder said — he estimated it is 300 cases a day — APS is taking this proactive measure.

“We are anticipating possibly a spike (in COVID-19 cases) over the next two weeks, and we’re really trying to prevent that from happening,” APS district athletic director Adrian Ortega said.

Elder said the ban is beginning Wednesday rather than Tuesday because Monday was a national holiday, and also because APS is still dealing with the fallout of a cyberattack last week.

Meanwhile, two other major school districts in the metro area — Rio Rancho and Los Lunas — are making no changes to their policy, which requires fans to wear masks for indoor sporting events like basketball.

Santa Fe Public Schools this week began to institute the following change; the high school gyms at Capital and Santa Fe are being reduced to 75 percent capacity for basketball, and concessions are no longer going to be sold in order to ensure fans keep their masks on during games.

Farmington Public Schools has not yet made any major alterations to its policy.

In essence, this means fans of Cibola, Atrisco Heritage and Volcano Vista will be able to watch road events at Cleveland or Rio Rancho. Eldorado, Sandia, La Cueva and West Mesa will be able to do similarly when their teams travel to Farmington or Piedra Vista. Manzano, Rio Grande and Albuquerque High fans will be able to attend road games at Los Lunas, Capital and Santa Fe.

In Class 4A, fans of Del Norte and Valley can attend games the next two weeks at Bernalillo, Hope Christian or Albuquerque Academy.

Belen and Bosque School have both made tweaks; Belen is selling two tickets each to its boys and girls basketball players, and coaches, for home games.

Bosque School recently implemented a major revision to its policy and prohibited fans from its basketball game Tuesday night against East Mountain, AD Jeaney Garcia said.

ADs at Menaul, Academy, Bernalillo, Hope and St. Pius all said their policies — as of Tuesday afternoon — had not changed.

Media are not being restricted from coverage, for now, APS said.

Additionally, APS students will have to wear masks both indoors and outdoors for the time being.

This is the third consecutive season that the coronavirus has caused at least partial disruption in the fan experience for high school basketball games. In March of 2020, fans were prohibited from the final couple of days of the state tournament at the Pit. Because of public health order restrictions, only a small percentage of fans were allowed at last year’s postseason games at the Pit.

“It’s my decision,” Elder said. “I did speak with all the high school principals to make sure they had a voice in this, and they were very much in favor of slowing it down for two weeks.”

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