MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - High school football has returned to the Mid-South and Friday night lights will look a lot different this season.
There are new rules on the field – and in the stands – all because of COVID-19.
In addition to temperature checks and symptom screenings for players and coaches, spectators will encounter an entirely new fan experience as well.
“Social distancing, I think, is the ultimate way. We did it in blunting the curve before we ever wore masks,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Infectious Disease Specialist for Baptist Memorial Health Care.
All Tennessee teams headed back to the grid iron must follow guidance of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association and their local health departments.
For Mid-South fans that means temperature checks, less than 50 percent capacity in the stands, 12-feet separation between groups, and masks worn at all times.
“They’re going to be yelling, so the six-feet kind of thing is not quite enough. That really was for more casual conversation that six-feet kind of referred to,” said Threlkeld.
An executive order signed by Governor Bill Lee allowed schools to move forward with the fall football season – despite the Shelby County Health Department’s disapproval.
“The Health Department’s position is that we still feel that contact sports is something that we cannot recommend at this time. We feel it is not safe,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Officer.
Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Infectious Disease Specialist for Baptist Memorial Health Care, says the safety procedures in place for players and spectators bode well for the limited amount of fans in attendance to watch this Mid-South tradition.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that people adequately separated in stands wearing masks should pose relatively low risk honestly,” said Threlkeld.
Each school district has a different plan for who’s allowed to attend the games.
In Arlington games are not open to the general public, with tickets reserved only for participants’ families.
In Collierville parents say they’re receiving two tickets for family members per participant, such as a football player or cheerleader.
Most of the schools we’ve talked to plan to stream their games online.