Recently, I attended a varsity football game between Naples High School and Palmetto Ridge High School and was reassured by the safety precautions that were put in place. From directions to the parking lot at Palmetto Ridge High School, to the before game practicing, the seating for spectators, performance areas for the cheerleaders and band, socially-distanced chairs for the team members not on the field, and more.
I noted that purses were checked upon entry, that’s good. There were several students selling PRHS t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc., and they kept their distance. Spectators entered with masks on, as directed, and as far as I could see, kept them on.
Before the game started, the Pledge was recited and the PRHS band played The Star–Spangled Banner from the visitors’ side of the field where they were seated with plenty of space in between them. The enthusiastic PRHS cheerleaders were also spaced out on the track in front of the bleachers and not even close enough to touch each other when their pom-poms were outstretched to the front or sideways.
PRHS has an outstanding band and many participants. Instruments that a person would blow into had special coverings on the bells. This prevented contaminating those nearby, if a player had recently been exposed, but not showing symptoms. When they weren’t playing, masks were back on.
Principal Jim Regusa and his administrative team, all masked, kept their eyes on the visitors, the performers, players and students, checking for any anomalies that they needed to address. The game started with a toss of the coin and the teams lined up for the kick-off and it was like “old-times” with the “hike,” the clash of helmets, cheers from the crowd, the band and the cheerleaders.
During a timeout, I noticed two rectangular tables set up behind the chairs for the players who weren’t in the game. The tables were separated. Players walked over to one of the two tables, stated his number and name and was handed the container of water designated to him, which was also labeled with his name. Looking more closely at the tables, I saw the bottles were separated by tape into squares with a name and number prominently displayed. Not only that, the bottles are placed in the centers of their respective boxes, socially distanced!
It’s a good thing that these games are held outside where the threat of infection is less. With all the safety precautions in place, and me with my mask on, I felt safe. Additionally, if you could not attend the football games in person, the Collier County School District set up a live stream of each of the games that could also be viewed by the opponents’ family and followers.
Now, volleyball is another story. At first, there was a limit of two persons per family so that they could maintain the necessary distances. Recently, this has been relaxed a bit so that more spectators can attend the games. The determinations are based on the rate of COVID-19 infections and “okays” from the Department of Health to make those adjustments whether it’s an inside event or outside. The hope is that, if progress continues in Collier County, the number of spectators in masks will be increased slowly and monitored carefully. Fingers crossed that our citizens continue to be responsible community members so “normalcy” is restored sooner, rather than later.
With all the new out-of-state cars appearing on our roads and the car haulers delivering their multiple loads, the chances for an increase in COVID-19 cases is feasible. If we all pitch in and kindly remind our visitors of the rules in Collier County, we will continue to make progress, have more participation in school-related events and events in general.