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A new normal at high school football games

Safety precautions included sitting in marked sections, wearing masks and buying tickets online.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Friday night football is back for Midlands public school districts but with new safety precautions to help combat COVID-19. 

Fans at the Eau Claire vs. Saluda game were excited to return to the bleachers to cheer on their teams. Masks and social distancing were required for all Richland One football games.

Richland One is still teaching 100% virtually but allowed fans back at football games as long as they follow safety protocols. They include sitting in marked sections, wearing masks and buying tickets online.  

The announcer at the game reminded fans of the rules with this message, saying, "Please keep in mind to practice social distancing at all times and remember masks are required for all spectators attending today’s game."

Richland School District Two is also 100% virtual and allowing fans at football games. Rules listed on their website say, “all spectators must keep a social distance separation of at least six feet and wear a mask at all times while on campus.” They’re also only allowing 50 people on each side of the stadiums.

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Carlos McFadden, a football parent at the Northwestern vs. Ridge View game Friday night, said this gives students something to look forward to. "I’m just excited that these kids have something to do," he said. "They’re not boxed up in the house with all the e-learning that’s going on ... It does them some good to get out of the house and do something. I’m glad we’re getting toward some type of normalcy," McFadden said.

Earlier Friday, Interim Public Health Director for DHEC, Dr. Brannon Traxler, shared some advice for football fans, saying, "We just want to remind anybody any time they’re going to be at a gathering, how important it is to do social distancing and wearing masks to prevent further spread of the disease."

Although Richland One and Two are allowing spectators at football games, both say they won’t return to in-person instruction until the spread of COVID-19 decreases from "high risk" to "medium risk" in Richland County.