Cincinnati Public Schools Limits Spectators at Athletic Games During COVID-19 Surge

Each student athlete can bring only two spectators.

click to enlarge CPS has announced limitations for spectators at athletic games. - Photo: Katerina Holmes, Pexels
Photo: Katerina Holmes, Pexels
CPS has announced limitations for spectators at athletic games.

On the heels of announcing its new remote-learning period due to COVID staffing issues, the Cincinnati Public Schools District also is changing aspects of its athletics programs.

CPS announced in a Jan. 12 statement that the district would continue its athletic games but would limit the number of spectators to two per student athlete. Approved media members and recruiters will not count toward that limit, CPS said. The capacity will be in effect through Sunday, Jan. 23.

The district has a number of protocols in place should a student-athlete test positive for COVID-19 or come into close contact with someone who has. Masks are required in school buildings.

CPS returned to district-wide remote learning on Jan. 12 after experiencing significant absences from educators, administrators, and employees of all types due to COVID-19. Nearly 800 employees reportedly were absent as of Jan. 6.

All CPS schools have shifted to remote learning five days a week, with in-person classes set to resume Monday, Jan. 24, but only if there are enough staff available. Employees are to work remotely if they are able. All schools will be off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 17.

Several other local schools have been affected by COVID-19. Middletown City School District recently canceled several school bus routes due to a lack of drivers, and Hamilton City Schools are closed until Tuesday, Jan. 18 due to "staff illness."

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has slammed Greater Cincinnati, putting a strain on hospitals, businesses and governments.

"One of the things about Omicron that is very different from all of the other variants of this COVID virus is that its transmissibility efficiency is at least twice what any of the other strains of this COVID virus has been," said Deborah Hayes, president and CEO of The Christ Hospital. "It is a virus that spreads almost as, if not as, easily as measles."

"It's one of the most transmissible viruses in the history of the world," Hayes continued.

Virologists and other experts agree that the coronavirus spreads through the air via fine aerosol particles that can linger for hours, which is why scientists strongly recommend wearing masks — especially when indoors or among large groups — practicing physical distancing, having good ventilation and moving airflow, and avoiding large gatherings.

Scientific studies have shown that public masking — even when not everyone does so — can block a high percentage of coronavirus particles from spreading to others and can protect the wearer, as well.

Likewise, getting one of the three COVID-19 vaccination series available in the United States greatly protects people from severe illness and likely hospitalization should they be exposed to the coronavirus, including its variants like Omicron and Delta. Adding a booster provides even more protection against serious health challenges, experts say. And though even vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19, they are much less likely to need hospitalization; Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said this week that 97% of the county's COVID patients were unvaccinated.

"The numbers of patients coming to the hospital to be admitted at this point is extraordinary compared to any other point in the pandemic, and the peak is not here yet," Hayes said.

"Our healthcare system is in crisis," added Julie Holt, chief nursing officer at The Christ Hospital. "It's a crisis now because we have widespread labor shortages in all industries, but it's especially exacerbated in healthcare because of the fatigue... burnout from all the deaths that we're experiencing, increased workloads and acuity of the patients that are in the hospitals, and then the personal illness and the family illness of our staff, which sometimes makes them unable to come to work."

Local governments are responding to swelling COVID numbers with new measures. On Jan. 12, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval declared a state of emergency and announced a mask order for all city buildings. For the next 30 days, all city employees and all members of the public must wear face masks within Cincinnati city facilities to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners also declared a public health state of emergency on Jan. 11 due to COVID-19.  The board had issued a state of emergency at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020 that expired in October of last year. Tuesday's declaration is a renewal of that order.

And on Jan. 11, Pureval joined with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb to ask Ohio officials for more state resources such as testing sites and supplies. Both cities — two of Ohio's largest — are being slammed with COVID-19 patients, they said, and they need more resources and staff.

Cincinnati has information about COVID-19 vaccination sites and testing locations on its health department website. Other regional resources include Hamilton County Public Health and The Health Collaborative.

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