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MDHHS extends pause on winter contact sports to at least Feb. 21, expands allowed attendance at stadiums

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, January 22, 2021, 1:32 pm

The pause is still a pause.

Winter contact sports, hoping that the Feb. 1 expiration of the current Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order would allow them to get out on the court and play were disappointed Friday morning at the announcement.

The MDHHS, in conjunction with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, extended the pause beyond Feb. 1, announcing Friday morning that contact winter sports — girls and boys basketball, competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling — must remain non-contact through at least Feb. 21. 

“We found out about this decision at 9:30 a.m. like everyone else, and we will address it as quickly as possible after taking the weekend to collect more information. … We did not anticipate this delay in winter contact practices and competition, and today’s announcement has created many new questions,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in a news release following Friday’s announcement. 

“Obviously, this is disappointing to thousands of athletes who have been training with their teams over the last week and watching teams in other states around Michigan play for the last two months.”

Friday’s announcement also changed the restrictions on attendance for sporting events, expanding to 500 the allowed number of spectators in arenas with at least 10,000 seat capacity. That, however, won’t change the number of allowed spectators for the remainder of the MHSAA football finals at Ford Field this weekend. 

“We have been planning these Finals for weeks to include immediate family, and unfortunately this isn’t a process we can adjust midstream,” Uyl said. “Distributing more tickets would put stress on those plans and Ford Field staffing, and force schools to make more hard decisions on who will be able to attend, but at the last second instead of with prior planning.” 

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