Bay News 9 | by Spectrum News staff | December 15, 2020
Polk County Public Schools said Tuesday it is temporarily suspending all athletics programs in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Coronavirus cases are on the rise in our county. We must do everything we can to limit exposure and safeguard our students and community,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd.
At the start of the 2020-21 school year, PCPS implemented precautions in its athletics programs. Those included:
- Limited attendance at athletic competitions to allow for social distancing.
- Required spectators to wear face coverings.
- Posted signs at athletic venues reminding spectators not to attend athletic events if they are experiencing COVID-like symptoms.
- Required student-athletes and coaches to wear face coverings and practice social distancing as much as possible during practices and competitions.
- Required equipment to be more frequently sanitized.
But even with the precautions in place, schools have had student-athletes test positive for COVID-19 since the start of the school year. More than 50 student athletes participating in winter sports have tested positive in recent weeks, school officials said.
“Right now, we have cases among cheerleaders, basketball and soccer players, wrestlers and weight lifters,” said Scott Sjoblom, COVID response section chief with the Florida Department of Health in Polk County.
“It’s important to remember that our schools are a reflection of what’s happening in the community. Case counts are rising throughout our county. This is a time to be extra vigilant. Suspending athletics is one more measure we can take to protect one another from this virus.”
Senior Coordinator of Athletics Dan Talbot said the suspension of athletic programs is effective immediately. All practices and competitions are cancelled until Jan. 4.