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School districts limit capacity for athletic events amid Omicron surge


Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 6:35 PM CST
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - New CDC guidance recommends school activities like football, wrestling and band should be cancelled in high transmission areas to help curb the spread of the omicron variant, but two of our largest school districts say that’s not happening.

“Right now, that’s not on the table, no,” Peoria Public Schools spokesperson Thomas Bruch said.

Peoria Public Schools is one of a few local school districts currently limiting spectators for athletic events. Currently, it’s two per athlete, a move they say makes sure events will go on as scheduled amid a surge in COVID infections due to omicron.

“We were just wondering, what is within our control?” Bruch said. “What can we help do and limit things as much as possible?”

Over in the twin cities, Bloomington District 87 students are limited to four fans each. Superintendent Barry Reilly says it’s in part because fans aren’t following masking rules. That’s in addition to rising case numbers.

“It’s hit or miss,” Reilly said. “We have adults who follow it well and others who simply do not.”

But many other local venues remain at full capacity, including other high schools, the Peoria Civic Center.

“Compared to other pro sporting venues and even the civic center here in town, our gyms are much smaller than that, and so it’s a much smaller and more contained space,” Bruch said.

Both Districts say current mitigation strategies are proactive and have worked as intended, while keeping sports and activities on track.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to keep in-person learning going, and we feel these mitigations give us the best chance to do that,” Reilly said.

The two districts say they plan to drop the spectator limits when local cases go down. For Bloomington, that could be as soon as next week.

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