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Minnesota high school sports to go on pause from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times
Everett Balstad carries the ball in Fertile-Beltrami's game against Clearbrook-Gonvick on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

High school sports in Minnesota are on hiatus once again.

Due to the state's recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Tim Walz announced a wave of new restrictions Wednesday evening, including a pause on all youth and high school sports, a shutdown of bars, restaurants, fitness clubs and entertainment venues and heavy limitations on social gatherings.

The restrictions will go into effect Friday, Nov. 20 at 11:59 p.m. and remain in effect through Friday, Dec. 18 at 11:59 p.m.

Walz's decision has wide-reaching implications for high school sports currently ongoing — football and volleyball — and sports that were scheduled to begin in the next month, including boys' and girls' basketball, boys' and girls' hockey and wrestling. For the next four weeks, beginning Saturday, all indoor and outdoor activities, including games, practices, group workouts and tournaments, are prohibited.

In the short term, it appears that the football and volleyball season will both come to an early end. Section tournaments for football started across the state on Tuesday — although over 80 teams, including Crookston, were forced to drop out of the postseason due to COVID-19 concerns. The football season was scheduled to conclude with section championship games next weekend, while the volleyball season was set to hold a postseason during the first two weeks of December.

With Thursday and Friday looking like the last two days of the season, barring a restart after Dec. 18, it appears likely teams will try to reschedule games to fit them in before the hiatus whenever possible.

Boys' hockey and basketball were scheduled to begin practices on Nov. 23, with wrestling and girls' hockey starting on Nov. 30 and girls' basketball on Dec. 7. Now, those sports will have to wait at least two weeks longer to begin practicing, and possibly much longer to play games, especially with winter break looming.

No word is out from the Minnesota State High School League on whether football and volleyball will restart after Dec. 18, and neither is an updated date for the start of winter sports.

"As a former high school football coach, I recognize the positive health impacts and unique developmental and social benefits of sports," Walz said in a statement. "But the 192 outbreaks connected to sports are too concerning to let these activities continue during this dial back. Sports-related cases are nearly twice as prevalent among high school-age children as any other age group, and they increasingly play a key role in the need to move schools to distance learning."

Minnesota has seen over 50,000 new infections in the last eight days, while 312 have died — bringing the state's totals to 242,043 cases and 3,010 deaths. Wednesday alone saw 1,706 hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Executive Order 20-99 can be read in full here.

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