High School and youth sports are on pause again after Gov. Tim Walz signed Emergency Executive Order 20-99 on Nov. 18 to put everything on hold through Friday, Dec. 18.
The order affects all Minnesota State High School League fine arts and athletic programs, including football and volleyball, and it is a direct result of rising COVID-19 cases across the state.
Football already had several teams out of the playoffs due to COVID-19, around 20 percent of the field, and several others canceled quarterfinal games due to precautions or potential exposure.
Volleyball also had some postponements this season, and the playoffs were never started as the final games last week were all regular-season contests.
Several football teams moved games originally scheduled for Nov. 21 to Nov. 20 to play one last game before the shutdown. Armstrong football changed opponents, traveling to Monticello instead of Elk River in its last game on Nov. 20. Cooper football moved its game against Minneapolis Southwest, and Champlin Park and Shakopee moved their game. Both will be played on Nov. 20.
Volleyball teams also scrambled to get in one final game before the season ended. Armstrong travels to Osseo on Nov. 20. Champlin Park travels to Wayzata, and Park Center hosts Anoka on Nov. 19.
Cooper played its last volleyball game against St. Louis Park on Nov. 18.
The winter season is also affected.
Dance was already practicing and was in the second week of practice before the order. Boys hockey and boys basketball were set to begin practice this week, and girls basketball, girls hockey, wrestling, gymnastics, boys swimming and adapted hockey were going to begin practice soon, as well.
Now all winter sports will have to wait until at least Dec. 19 to begin practice again, further shortening what was already going to be a limited season.
Coaches can still have a virtual connection with student-athletes for support, mentorship and individualized workouts. More MSHSL guidance is expected to be released by the end of the week.
The MSHSL also wrote in its press release that the league is continuing to study options for the upcoming winter and spring seasons as the pandemic continues.
The state is in one of the worst stretches of the pandemic right now with the Minnesota Department of Health reporting 72 deaths on Nov. 18 and another 7,877 new cases of the coronavirus. There are more than 1,700 people in the hospital because of COVID-19, and 350 of those people are in intensive care. 3,082 people have died since March.
Overall, there were 249,906 confirmed or probable cases from when the state began testing in March. And numbers are growing across all age brackets. There were around 20,000 confirmed or probable cases for children ages 15 to 19 as of Nov. 18.
And the pace of increase is expected to get worse as numbers take at least two weeks to catch up. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said that there may be more than 10,000 cases a day by Thanksgiving and potentially up to 20,000 new cases by New Year’s Day – which is why the health department also urges people to only celebrate the holidays within your household or others inside your bubble.
Walz said in his press conference that announced the restrictions that while it took 29 weeks to get to 100,000 cases, it only took six weeks to get to 200,000. He said it will be less than three weeks to get to 300,000 cases.
In addition to high school sports, youth sports and adult recreational sports were also shut down, though collegiate and professional sports can continue with the correct precautions in place.
The order also affects other areas of society with bars and restaurants going to take-out only, and closures for public pools, recreational centers, gyms, fitness and dance studios, theaters and bowling alleys.
Wedding receptions, celebrations and private parties are also not allowed. Wedding ceremonies, funerals and religious events are OK if current capacity and social distancing rules are followed.
Retail and grocery stores, salons and places of worship are still operating under previous restrictions.