State officials make way for return of non-contact sports

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RALEIGH —  In a press briefing on Friday afternoon, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen shed a bit more light on how the state’s youth sports programs can resume action after being grounded by COVID-19 the past three months.

During the question-and-answer portion of the briefing, Cooper voiced the importance of sports to the state’s livelihood and said he wants to see every level get back to action when it becomes safe enough to do so. 

Cohen went a step further, saying that state officials had devised guidelines for local sports organizations and teams to follow during Phase 2 of Gov. Cooper's three-phase plan to reopen the state.

The guidelines specifically recommend "limiting sports activities to those in which participants social distancing, or close contact is brief."  Non-contact sports such as tennis, golf, baseball and softball, running and swimming were among those activities highlighted in this category.

Conversely, the new NCDHHS guidelines do not recommend sports like football and basketball that "typically require coaches and athletes who are not from the same household or living unit to be in close proximity, which increases their potential for exposure to COVID-19." 

The report did, however, state that in these contact sports, team activities are allowed and should be limited to athletic conditioning, drills, and practices in which "dummy players, sleds, punching bags and similar equipment" are used.

In April, the N.C. High School Athletic Association followed state orders that closed schools for the remainder of the spring semester and announced the cancelation of all of its spring sports competitions. This month, the organization pegged June 1 as the day teams can officially return to organized activities, with state and city officials having the final say.

James Alverson, NCHSAA assistant commissioner, presented a response to the latest Coronavirus Task Force briefing in a statement Friday afternoon.

“Since we have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the guidelines mentioned by the Governor (Cooper) and Dr. Cohen with a broader audience in our membership, we will spend the next several days discussing options, opportunities and best practices for resuming activity with our board of directors and sports medicine advisory committee, in addition to other stakeholder groups such as principals, athletic director, coaches groups, etc.,” Alverson said in an email. “These conversations will help us determine a more specific and detailed path forward.”

Alverson added that the NCHSAA board members, including commissioner Que Tucker, will be available to the media via Zoom call on Tuesday, May 26.

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