ST. PAUL — Organized youth sports – including Minnesota State High School League events – must pause for four weeks beginning midnight Friday, Nov. 20, under an emergency executive order issued by Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday night.

The executive order, effective through Dec. 18, is in response to rapidly rising COVID-19 case numbers across Minnesota. The order cited 192 virus outbreaks that state officials say were connected to sports.

It means the MSHSL fall season will end earlier than expected and the winter season will begin later than scheduled. State football playoffs started Tuesday, with many second-round games scheduled for Saturday. Teams that advanced to the second round were expected to try to move those games to Friday, ahead of the four-week pause. The third round and final round of the playoffs, with most games set for Nov. 27 and 28, are not expected to take place.

The volleyball regular season was to end next week, with a two-week playoff window beginning Nov. 30.

In August, the MSHSL board of directors voted to move football and volleyball seasons to spring in response to the pandemic. In September, the board reconsidered and approved delayed, shortened fall seasons for the two sports.

The pause also applies to organized team activities such as practices, scrimmages and group workouts. Dance team practices started Nov. 9, and other winter sports practices were to begin over the next few weeks. Now the earliest they can start or resume is Dec. 19. During the pause, coaches can communicate with athletes virtually, but athletes must train on their own.

The end of the shutdown period comes just before winter break. Only a few South Suburban Conference contests were scheduled between Dec. 23 and Jan. 5, so the first games in some SSC winter sports might not happen until 2021.

The executive order also shuts down fitness centers, indoor and outdoor dining, public recreation centers and indoor entertainment venues through Dec. 18.

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