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Limited fans, no concessions will be part of desert high school football's return

The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) logo The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) 3/13/2021 Larry Bohannan, Palm Springs Desert Sun

First the question was if high school football would be played at all during the 2020-21 school year, a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then the question was exactly when football games would be played, and just how many games would be played by each school.

Now that players and coaches know games will begin March 19 in the desert, the remaining question was how many people, under the rapidly changing state and county restrictions, will be allowed to watch the games. The answer, for now, is not many.

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Following guidelines from the California Department of Public Health, football players in the desert will be allowed to have two people attend games. While those people are described as “observers” by the CDPH, local schools are limiting that to immediate family members.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Shadow Hills Knights Fans. © Ceasar Rodriguez/ Special to The Desert Sun Shadow Hills Knights Fans.

“We are limiting each athlete to two observers/immediate family members,” said Joan Boiko, coordinator of communications and community outreach for the Palm Springs Unified School District. “The protocol defined by the (athletic directors) is each student athlete will complete a Google form indicating the two observers. From there the ADs can create a Google sheet and use it as a checklist at the gate.”

The Palm Springs Unified plan is in line with the CDPH restrictions announced earlier this month.

“Limit observation of youth sports (age 18 years and under) to immediate household members, and for the strict purpose of age appropriate supervision,” the guidance from the state states. “This includes observation of practice and competition.  Limit number of observers to ensure physical distance can be maintained, reduce potential crowding, and maintain indoor and outdoor capacity limits.”

Dr. Sandra Lyon, superintendent of the Palm Springs Unified School District, said at the district board meeting this week that getting high school sports approved with proper restrictions has been a difficult task.

“Our athletic directors and coaches are hard at work on schedules for various sports so we will be getting those to the board as soon as we have them,” Lyon said. “And we are following the county and the CDPH guidance on everything, as you know, and that does include two observers per athlete and making sure that we don’t have too many people in the stands and that we are not having to monitor that.”

While the Palm Springs district includes Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and Desert Hot Springs high school, Lyon said the approved observers will also be shared with other schools for road games to keep the number of fans to a minimum.

Nearly identical protocols are in place for the four schools in Desert Sands Unified School District -- Palm Desert, La Quinta, Shadow Hills and Indio – and the two schools in the Coachella Valley Unified School District, Coachella Valley and Desert Mirage high schools, and private school Xavier College Prep.

The Desert Sands District is using a wristband system, allowing athletes in all outdoor sports to pass out those wristbands while noting the wristbands are intended for parents or guardians of the athletes.

While limited fans will be allowed in the stadiums in the desert, there will be few amenities for them. Bathrooms facilities will be open, but concession stands will not be open for food or beverage sales. Marching bands, also will not be 

With all schools in the Desert Empire League planning on a five-game season, it is possible that some of those protocols could change before the end of the shortened season, especially with Riverside Country expected to move from the restrictive purple tier to the less-restrictive red tier next week.

Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or larry.bohannan@desertsun.com. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism: Subscribe to the Desert Sun.  

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Limited fans, no concessions will be part of desert high school football's return

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