Stark County health officials recommend delaying youth contact sports

(Canton, Ohio) – The Stark County Health Department and Canton City Public Health Boards of Health are expressing serious concerns regarding the next phase of school competitive sports.

Officials explained that contact sports make it difficult to maintain six feet of social distance or wear facial coverings (masks), which they indicate are the most effective strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Stark County is currently at a Level 2 – Orange, which recommends limiting exposure and exercising a high degree of caution, as well as, advising there be a decrease regarding in-person interactions outside of the household. Officials noted that due to this, they are encouraging a delay to the start of competitive play to at least October 1st., shortened competitive play seasons for moderate and high-risk sports, and limited spectators to two per athlete or consider eliminating spectators all together for all of Ohio.

The importance of sports across the state, and especially to community members in Stark County, was acknowledged by officials. However, they reinforced their recommendation to consider postponing the Fall Sports Season in order to protect the health of students, coaches, and families. ‘We feel the actions that you take and your leadership will be the most effective tool within our local communities in accepting the sports season adjustments, as well as, following any additional guidance created by the Ohio Department of Health,” officials explained in a joint letter sent to Governor Mike DeWine.

Stark County Health Commissioner, Kirkland Norris also indicated his understanding that some members of the community may be upset with this approach,” as public health professionals and parents, we totally understand,” he said. “In the end, the final decision for participation in fall sports lies with the parents, our elected school officials, and the Governor. No matter what the decision, public health will continue to work closely with school districts to help implement the recommendations so that our students can safely return to school.”

Norris further noted that “while COVID-19 infections may be mild in children unless those infected have chronic health conditions (known or unknown), the community spread aspect of tremendous concern. That is the message that is so vital with situations such as these,” said Norris.

As of Saturday, August 15th, a response had not yet been received by Governor DeWine. Officials expect an announcement will come during one of the Governor’s regularly scheduled press conferences.

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