As Gov. Bill Lee made a special address Sunday night describing the fight against COVID a "war" for the state, he addressed the immediate future for preps athletics.
Lee says that, while he feels it's important for prep athletics to continue in Tennessee, attendance will be limited at all state prep events through Jan. 19.
"I believe high school sports are an important part of our kids' lives, and they should continue," Lee said, "but in coordination with the TSSAA, we are limiting attendance at indoor sporting events."
The executive order says that, starting Dec. 20, spectators are not permitted to attend practices and games or competitions, with certain exceptions.
Those exceptions include, per the order, "game, school and facility administrators, athletics officials, coaching and team personnel, parents, guardians or other immediate household members of athletes practicing or competing at the venue on that date, media and athletic scouting personnel attending the event in their professional capacity, and first responders."
The order says they "may be present within the facility, but must to the greatest extent practicable comply with applicable health protocols, including maintaining at least six (6) feet of separation from persons outside their household."
The TSSAA has not yet commented in an official capacity, though Williamson County Schools had previously implemented a policy limiting attendance at its events to four tickets per athletic participant.
Lee's address Sunday comes as the country sees an unprecedented amount of COVID cases in part stemming from the post-Thanksgiving rise and most gatherings going indoors due to the colder weather. It is expected Christmas and New Year's gatherings could make the situation even worse and overwhelm Tennessee's health care system and health care systems countrywide.
While Lee did not implement a statewide mask mandate despite calls from the health care community to do so, he has restricted all indoor gatherings to 10 people maximum in a group at any given place, excluding funerals, weddings and places of worship.
"We know that's it's gatherings that have caused this surge, and that's why we're making these decisions around gatherings that will help us blunt the rise in cases," Lee said.