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Moore County Schools announced Thursday that all summer athletic and other extracurricular activities have been suspended until further notice.

Several school systems around the state have taken similar actions after the N.C. High School Athletic Association delayed the start of fall sports until at least Sept. 1 because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“For now, we believe these steps provide hope for our student athletes, and the possibility for playing fall sports We know that many decisions are being made relative to the reopening plan your school(s) will follow, NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said in a statement to members of the media Wednesday.

The association gave schools the go-ahead to begin voluntary workouts June 15 under phase one of its plan, which some did. Moore County initially set a date of July 6 and later delayed that until July 20. .

In addition, the association said for those that have resumed summer workouts that the first five days of school for students will be designated as a “dead period” for all sports, allowing everyone to focus on the start of school. Workouts and practice are not allowed during that period.

Tucker said in an earlier news conference that a decision on when, or if, fall sports will start depends on the state’s plan for opening schools. She made clear that the return of sports would be contingent on students being allowed to return to classrooms next month.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday afternoon that schools will reopen with a combination of in-person and remote learning. School districts around the state have been working on plans for reopening based on the state’s guidelines.

Tucker said in the email Wednesday that after each school district in the state has finalized reopening plans, NCHSAA staff will survey its members “to determine how sports should and/or can fit into the various models that will exist across the state.”

She stressed that the new start date is not “in cement” and can be pushed back even further if they do not have “improved data” from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services regarding COVID-19 cases or there is some other reason for delaying it into September or beyond. 

“We acknowledge that playing certain sports are more problematic at any time without a vaccine,” she said.

Tucker said they will continue consulting with members of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), who “believe we can and should offer a sports program” with all necessary modifications, delays and other safety measures.

She said that in the coming weeks, they will be working with the SMAC in planning the next steps for the fall, as well as determining when equipment could be shared, such as balls, and whether the association can move into phase two of the summer workouts/conditioning.

Under phase one, schools must have personal protection equipment, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes and digital thermometers available before workouts start.

According to the guidelines, there can be no more than 25 people, including coaches, managers and trainers, working out at one time if the workouts are outside, 10 in an indoor setting. If one individual is detected with COVID-19, everyone in that pod must self-isolate for 14 days.

Wearing protective equipment is prohibited, and only conditioning and individual drills can be held. A player must not participate in drills with a single ball that will be handed off or passed to other teammates. Contact with another player is not allowed. Tackling dummies/donuts/sleds must be disinfected after every use.

For volleyball, each player must have her own ball. A player must not participate in drills with a single ball that will be bumped, served or passed to other teammates, according to the guidelines.

Normally, practice for fall sports would begin Aug. 1, and teams could begin playing games Aug. 17. Fall sports include football, boys soccer, boys tennis, girls golf, and boys and girls cross country.

“Each NCHSAA board member believes in the value of education-based athletics and is committed to SAFELY offering a fall, winter, and spring sports program during this school year,” Tucker said in the Wednesday email. “However, there is also a commitment to the health and safety of students and coaches. Towards this end, we all will continue to follow the guidance of the Department of Health and Human Services relative to the data and how we all safely move forward.”

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

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