SPOKANE, Wash. — High school football in North Idaho started last Friday and fans saw requirements and restrictions like they never had before because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lake City High School and Sandpoint High School were two schools that hosted football games. At both games, some fans didn’t social distance, and many weren’t wearing masks.
“It wasn’t perfect. Yeah, certainly a bit of concern there," Sandpoint Athletic Director Kris Knowles said.
Coeur d'Alene School District Director of Communications Scott Maben wasn't satisfied either.
“Our performance on meeting the requirements last Friday at our last football game was not good enough," he said.
Lake City High is in Kootenai County, which has a mask mandate. According to Maben, as of now those who attend events on campus must wear a mask and social distance. That wasn’t the case for the most part last Friday.
“When people were coming through the gates, people had their masks with them, had them on, went up to the stands, settled in. Game started, masks came off," Maben said. "We can’t let people just completely ignore the requirements. I spoke with principal Clifford. She’d tell the students and the masks would go up, but I think we need to address taking a tougher stance on this. We can’t let people ignore the requirements."
At Sandpoint High School in Bonner County, there is no mask mandate or social distancing requirements. There are only recommendations by the high school to do both at games.
The school originally set up boundaries to block off every other bleacher to distance people, but the fans disregarded those and many were pretty close to one another.
“I think in every community you have people that are hesitant to change," Knowles said. "I think the biggest challenge is getting people to accept that we are in a different climate, and we are in a different world right now.”
Post Falls High School and Lakeland High School were visiting teams at both Sandpoint and Lake City, respectively. Their fans weren’t social distancing or wearing masks for the most part either. That being the case, they had smaller seating areas too.
KREM 2 showed visuals to Panhandle Health District Public Information Officer Kate Hoyer. Her main concern was that this could keep spreading the virus.
Hoyer said that schools had reached out to the health district for recommendations regarding fans.
“Our first reaction was, 'Can you do it without any fans in the stands at all?' We kind of figured this would happen and people wouldn’t adhere to the physical distancing, and we knew that would be difficult," she said. "But the schools wanted to do it with fans in the stands so that’s what they did. Hopefully they try to do it as safely as possible."
While the schools try to find ways to get this under control, they urge fans to understand the severity of the situation.
“If we want to be able to continue to do this we’re literally in week one," Knowles said. "We have got all these weeks ahead. If we want to be able to continue doing this the best, safest practice is to wear a mask. The best, safest practice is to socially distance.”
Maben echoed the same.
“We want everyone to understand that we’re doing this because we care about the healthy and safety of the student-athletes, the coaches, the officials, and everyone who is there who attend these games.”