MISSOULA — The Missoula City-County Health Department is allowing up to 500 spectators, including fans from outside the county, to attend sporting events effective this week, according to an order from health officer Ellen Leahy, after having limited attendance to two fans per player and cheer squad member for the home team since the start of the fall sports season.

Teams located in Missoula County include Sentinel, Hellgate, Big Sky, Loyola Sacred Heart, Valley Christian, Frenchtown and Seeley-Swan.

The order comes after Missoula County set a single-day record with 62 new COVID-19 cases and the state reported a single-day record of 333 new cases Thursday. Last week, about 20 parents and athletes from county schools protested the crowd size limits outside the Health Department.

Under the new order, the host school or district will decide how many visiting fans may attend games. Spectators from visiting teams had previously only been allowed if the visiting team was from inside Missoula County. The fans for home and away teams must remain separated during the game, whether that be in different grandstands, sections or by some other means.

The limit of 500 spectators also applies to crosstown events. If a facility has a max capacity under 500, the host school can't exceed the stated capacity.

Athletes and cheer squad members must still wear face coverings except when they're in the game or performing cheer activities. All spectators age 5 or older still must wear a mask. Concession stands and half-time activities are still not allowed.

All requirements of the Health Officer's Order issued May 28 must still be followed. Additionally, the host school or district must have a written plan for how the event will meet the requirements of the order, and it must be available to the health department upon request.

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at frank.gogola@missoulian.com.

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