The effects of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, which has prompted suspension of major college and professional sports events across the country, has reached high school sports in Tennessee.

Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association announced it will limit fan attendance at the girls’ state tournament beginning with Friday’s semifinals and next week’s boys’ state tournament at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro.

Lebanon High fans planning to attend Friday’s 11:30 a.m. semifinal against Arlington will have to change those plans unless they are part of the 23-person party (players, coaches, managers, trainers and other support personnel), an immediate family member (parents, stepparents, guardians, siblings, grandparents and other members living in the athlete’s household) or an administrator from a participating school.

This will also restrict Mt. Juliet fans from attending the Golden Bears’ quarterfinal game against Blackman in the boys’ tournament next Wednesday.

School administrators will have to provide a list of those who meet the requirements of entry and be at a Murphy Center entrance to identify and grant entry those persons, who will then have to obtain a new ticket.

Anyone not on the approved list won’t be allowed entry, even with a previously purchased ticket or pass.

Cheerleaders, mascots and pep bands will also be denied entry unless they meet the criteria. TSSAA-credentialed media will be allowed entrance.

Here is the release issued by TSSAA early Thursday afternoon:

“Like many other athletic associations and leagues throughout the country, TSSAA has decided that the health and safety of our student-athletes and spectators alike require that we limit fan attendance at our girls’ and boys’ state basketball championships.

Beginning with the Friday March 13 session, attendance at the remainder of the girls’ state tournament and throughout the boys’ state tournament will be limited to the team party (23-person maximum including varsity players, coaches, and team support personnel), their immediate families, and school administrators of the qualifying schools. Immediate family includes parents, stepparents, guardians, siblings, other members living in the athlete’s household, and grandparents. School administrators will be required to provide a list of those persons meeting the qualifications for entry. School administrators will be at the entrance of each venue to identify and grant entry to those persons on the list. All those entering the venue will be required to obtain a new ticket.

Anyone not on the approved list will not be allowed entry, even if the individual has a previously purchased ticket or pass. This restriction also includes non-varsity participants who are not in the 23-person team party, cheerleaders, mascots, and pep bands. With the exception of coaches, all other attendees may remain only for games in the class in which their team is participating. Members of the media with TSSAA issued credentials will be allowed entry.

Upon entry, spectators are urged to take advantage of the available seating and not gather in crowds. Elderly individuals and those who suffer from chronic illness are at higher risk for more severe symptoms if they contract the virus and should consider this fact when deciding whether to attend.

In making these decisions, we have consulted with the CDC as well as the Tennessee Department of Health, we have reached out to independent experts, and we have conferred with our sister high school associations in other states. We have also observed what other organizations like the NCAA, the SEC, and the NBA have done in response to this worldwide health concern. The Tennessee Department of Health and an independent expert in infectious diseases have confirmed that the limitations we have developed are in line with current guidelines and best practices.

We understand and regret the hardship these limitations will create for many. However, the health and safety of our student-athletes is paramount. We will continue to monitor the situation, and we are hopeful that additional limitations will not be necessary.”

Fans unable to attend can follow the games online at tssaasports.com where links are available to live stats and video and audio streams.

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