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The game between the Bluefield High School Beavers and the Graham High School G-Men was postponed last August due to concerns about spreading COVID-19. The new date was announced Monday.

BLUEFIELD   Social distancing and using masks are being encouraged this Friday when high school football fans converge on Mitchell Stadium for the rescheduled Beaver-Graham game.

The game between the Bluefield High School Beavers and the Graham High School G-Men was postponed last August due to concerns about spreading COVID-19. The new date was announced Monday.

The Beaver-Graham game usually draws about 10,000 fans to Mitchell Stadium. With such numbers in mind, the school systems and health officials are asking people to use social distancing whenever possible and to wear masks when distancing becomes impractical.

“We do recommend that they wear masks if they cannot social distance,” said Amy Harrison, data and information specialist for Mercer County Schools. “People were sad when it had to be postponed, but now they’re ready to cheer on the Beavers or the G-Men.”

In September, the Mercer County Health Department approved a mask mandate for all indoor public buildings. Administrator Roger Topping said Tuesday that the health department is asking people to use both masks and social distancing during the game.

“We’re just asking people to be smart,” Topping said. “Wear your masks and try to social distance as much as you possibly can. That’s the best you can ask for. It’s hard to imagine a Bluefield-Graham game with any room left in the bleachers.”

Topping urged people who are feeling sick for any reason to stay home even if the reason could be a cold or the flu.

“It doesn’t have to be COVID,” he said. “It can be anything. You don’t need to be spreading germs to other people.”

Topping said that since the mask mandate was started, the health department has heard accounts of people following the mandate and others ignoring it.

“We hear both,” he stated. “We heard a story from a person who was very concerned. She went to a local pharmacy and a sign on the door said that you must wear a mask. The lady walked in. She had a mask. The clerk had a mask on, but nobody else had a mask. A lot of people are not taking this seriously.”

In August, Mercer County had about 900 new cases of COVID-19. This number had grown to 1,828 cases by September, Topping said.

“So it’s not going away and people aren’t helping themselves by not using the masks,” he added. “We’ve got to take this seriously.”

While wearing masks can be unpleasant, it helps prevent the virus’s spread, Topping said.

“I understand why they don’t want to wear a mask,” he stated. “I hate wearing a mask. I also know our hospitals are practically full and the vast majority who are there are unvaccinated. That’s got to tell you something. I’m tired of saying this, but this is not a political issue. This is not a personal issue. This is an epidemic. This delta (COVID) doesn’t take prisoners.”

The delta variant can infect people who are “a few months old or 100 years old,” Topping said.

“There are more young kids in the hospital and more of them are dying all the time,” he stated. “Make a choice.”

If the game is played on Friday, it will be a part of The Great American Rivalry Series.

The Great American Rivalry Series, now in its 18th year, shines the spotlight on top high school football rivalries across the nation, according to a press release issued Monday by The Great American Rivalry Series. The winning team Friday night will receive The Great American Rivalry Series Champions trophy.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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