Florida’s high school athletic board voted Friday to push aside the guidance of its medical experts and begin practices for football and other fall sports on Aug. 24, with games less than two weeks later.
Physicians had advised that sports not start for at least six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a part of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s approval for the season, coaches will have to make a “COVID waiver form” available to schools as well as take a COVID-19 training course through the National Federation of High Schools.
Football games and other competitive sports — including girl’s volleyball, cross country and swimming — could start as early as Sept. 4, but the state’s 67 countywide school districts and private schools have until Sept. 18 to resume play if they decide to participate in the statewide playoffs.
If a district decides to delay, its teams will still be allowed to extend their regular seasons. Officials find themselves making such choices even as the virus ravages Florida and infections spike in parts of the country.
On Friday, Florida’s death toll surpassed 9,000.
The state health department confirmed almost 6,200 additional cases at the end of the week, pushing the confirmed total to more than 563,300.
Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that Florida has the second-highest number of cases in America behind California.
Assessing the current situation, the Florida association’s medical advisory board recommended forgoing sports until Sept. 28 at the earliest, provided that counties met criteria that includes having both a decrease in daily reported cases and a positivity rate below 5%.
So far, no counties meet those benchmarks. Nearly 800 schools are a part of the association.