By Conor McCue

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Limited numbers of fans were in the stands at several high school football games in the Denver metro area Saturday, as teams hoped to advance to the state championship next weekend. For the teams that did, those same fans won’t be there for support due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado High School Activities Association announced fans would not be allowed at the state championship in Pueblo because the county is in Level Red on the state’s COVID-19 color dial.

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“We appreciate the ongoing partnership with the Colorado High School Activities Association as we navigate these tough times,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director of CDPHE, said in a news release. “Early in the season, our organizations both agreed that additional safety measures like these might need to be taken, and now unfortunately we are there. These decisions aren’t made lightly, but they’re necessary.”

On Saturday, each of CHSAA’s 4A and 5A playoff games were also played in counties under level red, leaving both those that agree and disagree with the recent decision asking for consistency.

“In that press release it said we are making this decision based on Pueblo County entering Level Red,” said James Brundige, a Littleton resident who works as an umpire for college and high school baseball. “Here we are still having fans at football games in the metro area.”

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While state guidelines say crowds for outdoor events should be limited to 25% capacity or 75 people, whichever is fewer, the change to disallow fans next week comes as 1 in 29 people in Pueblo and the surrounding area are contagious with COVID, a release from CHSAA said.

“I’m taking this very seriously. I wish other people would,” Brundige said. “Can we not be bothered enough to disrupt our lives long enough to get through this as a society?”

John Zilinskas was among the several dozen parents in attendance for the semi-final game between Cherry Creek and Pomona high schools at the Stutler Bowl.

“I felt very comfortable,” Zilinskas said. “I think Cherry Creek School District has done a phenomenal job this entire season enabling the families who are a big part of this sport and high school experience to be safe yet enjoy their children.”

Zilinskas said he did not care for the decision to disallow fans from the championship game in Pueblo. He and other parents believe they can attend games and watch their kids play in a safe manner.

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“When people do what they’re supposed to be doing, when we all lead ourselves like we should be, social distancing, wearing masks and washing our hands, we have good results,” he said.

CBS4 reached out to CHSAA officials to ask about both sides’ concerns, but did not hear back. Regarding this weekend’s games, a representative with CDPHE said via email there are no existing variances for playoff games, so the dial capacity restrictions should be followed.

Conor McCue