AUDIO: Governor Murphy announces an Executive Order to allow limited fans at indoor high school sporting events

Governor Murphy at his Feb. 12 COVID-19 press briefing.

This story will be updated if Governor Phil Murphy makes additional comments at today’s press conference. Please check back here for updates.

During his regularly scheduled Friday COVID press conference, Governor Murphy announced he will sign an executive order today allowing limited numbers of fans to attend high school sporting events.

Murphy said fans will be limited to two parents or guardians per student-athlete under the age of 21, as long as capacity limits of 150 people or 35 percent of the room’s capacity – whichever is smaller – are not exceeded.

No other spectators will be allowed to attend.

The St. Joseph-Metuchen “Falcon Flock,” the student section that’s often raucous at St. Joe’s basketball games, has been noticeably absent this year due to COVID regulations banning all fans from games. They still won’t be allowed at games this year, but up to 2 parents or guardians per student athlete will be allowed in high school gyms for the rest of the season. (Source: St. Joe’s website)

“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,” said Murphy.

The Governor said the decision was made as “the metrics in our hospitals and elsewhere continue to trend more positive for us.”

“This is something I have been wanting to do for our student athletes and their biggest fans,” Murphy added.

For the limit to be smaller than 150 people, the full capacity of a gym would have to be about 430 people.

Few gyms, if any, in Central Jersey would fall under that category. Edison, for example, has a capacity of 900, including a handful of rows on each baseline. Taking those out, capacity would be 650, still enough to allow up to 150 people.

The NJSIAA responded to the changes with a statement released on Twitter.

“NJSIAA welcomes the Governor’s executive order, which provides an opportunity for limited spectators to attend high school sporting events. 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 capacity as outlined.”

Murphy stressed that all New Jersey Department of Health guidelines would remain in effect. Fans will have to social distance – unless in the same family – and wear masks at games. Murphy added that if a positive case arises, all those in attendance would have to assist with contact tracing.

Murphy said while this could allow fans at games as soon as this weekend, local school districts would have the authority to decide when fans could begin coming to games, whether to have a smaller limit, or whether to even allow fans at all.

Click below to hear Murphy’s comments today on allowing fans back at indoor high school sporting events in New Jersey:

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