Arizona officials reinstate winter sports at high schools

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona high school sports officials voted Tuesday to allow winter sports, reversing a decision made four days earlier to cancel the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association voted 5-4 to reinstate basketball, soccer and wrestling for high school students. It comes as the state struggles with the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the U.S.

The season was expected to start next week. All students, coaches and officials will be required to wear a face covering during games and events.

Each school also must complete a coronavirus monitoring form the day of every game and provide a copy to the opposing school.

Only two parents or legal guardians will be able to attend their child’s home games. AIA Executive Director David Hines said no general fans will be allowed, but that policy may be reconsidered at some point, The Arizona Republic reported.

Journalists will have to receive permission from the school’s athletic director to cover an event.

Hines said any school that violates health protocols will lose access to AIA officials.

“Masks will be required to play,” Hines said. “No exceptions. If you cannot, we apologize. There will be masks worn.”

The change followed protests to the original vote canceling winter sports.

The AIA’s sports medicine advisory committee last week recommended the cancellation because of a surge of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in Arizona, where one in every 109 people was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past week.

That drew a backlash from some parents, coaches and athletes.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, student-athletes gathered with signs outside the association’s building, chanting, “AIA, let us play, AIA, let us play!”

Some coaches support the decision to allow winter sports, and others were against it.

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