Cheerleader’s mother concerned about COVID-19 safety at N. Charleston competition

VIDEO: Cheerleader’s mother concerned about COVID-19 safety at N. Charleston competition

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Cheersport is hosting its Grand Championship at the North Charleston Area Convention Center on Dec. 13.

The Cheersport website shows there are 57 teams scheduled to attend from South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

The spokesperson for the City of North Charleston, Ryan Johnson, says the venue has a “Large Venue Event Exemption” to host events larger than 250 people.

“To date, Varsity has followed all the rules and coliseum staff has spoken with other venues hosting Varsity events. they will be in Atlanta before our dates, for reference,” Johnson said.

A cheerleader’s mother in Charlotte says her daughter’s cheer team is signed up to compete. The mother says she believes the event should be held virtually to keep everyone safe. Cheersport has hosted a virtual competition series.

“As a mom I have a responsibility to keep her safe and keep her healthy, but I also have a responsibility to my community and to her teammates,” the mom said.

The Cheersport event page states “safety remains our top priority and we have a dedicated, experienced team focused on researching and developing a plan for each event.”

They are collecting all names and contact emails when purchasing tickets for contact tracing. Anyone younger than 13 will not be required to list a contact email.The event page states details and schedules for competitions will be continuously monitored and may be adjusted, including making the competition virtual, if necessary.

The general manager of the Charleston Area Convention Center says they are working on a social distancing layout for spectators and will make sure capacity limits are followed. They require masks and other safety measures at the center.

The venue where the competition is scheduled has a limited capacity of 5,000. Officials say they expect the turnout to be well below that.

The Department of Commerce has approved hundreds of event exemptions across the state.

Officials said all guidelines are subject to change based on the CDC, federal, state, local and venue-specific guidance.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Henry McMaster prohibited events with more than 250 people unless they were able to receive an exemption through an application process with the South Carolina Department of Commerce. Event organizers were applying directly to the department.

Officials with the Department of Commerce say the North Charleston Coliseum Complex submitted an application in September for blanket approval that covers events hosted at the North Charleston Coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Charleston Area Convention Center.

The department says that means an individual event organizer hosting at approved venue is not required to submit a separate application. Each event is required to follow the guidelines approved for the North Charleston Coliseum Complex.

“Although they got an exemption to hold a large mass gathering, the 13.8 million people in our country who contracted COVID did not get an exemption, the people who have died did not get an exemption,” the mom said.

Johnson says the convention center’s current limit is 50% of capacity or capacity based upon social distancing, whichever is fewer.

“The real limit is how chairs are spaced to create appropriate distancing once the final floor plan is drawn,” Johnson said. “Coliseum staff has just recently received the set-up from Varsity and are incorporating it into the setup system. Once staff has the layout they will work with Varsity to create appropriate POD seating based upon their best estimate for attendance per session.”

Johnson says if needed they will have them break sessions into smaller sessions to keep the numbers within the manageable range. He also says room could be cleared after each session to control the numbers.

The City of North Charleston officials said they received an email from someone who was initially concerned about the event saying in part:

“Your process to manage capacity and this event sounds impressive. Thank you for your part in keeping everyone safe too! And, thank you for also sharing how well Varsity has done with the rules. That is reassuring to know. I appreciate you understanding my concerns during this uncertain time and caring enough to take the time to clear things up for me and help put me at ease with this event.”

The South Carolina Department of Commerce has approved hundreds of events with more than 250 people across the state.

On Friday, Varsity responded saying,“At Varsity Spirit, the health and safety of our athletes, coaches, employees, families and friends is our top priority.”

Organizers say spectator viewing is limited to team performance time only and the live awards ceremony will include limited athletes and coaches or awards could be virtual.

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