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6 football teams not practicing; GHSA reports 655 COVID-19 cases

ajc.com

Georgia high schools have reported 655 positive COVID-19 tests among athletes and coaches since June 8, when they were allowed to begin summer conditioning, the GHSA reported Tuesday.

At least six football programs have canceled workouts over COVID-19 concerns this week, which marks the first time that teams statewide may hold mandatory football practices.

Schools not practicing football currently include Morgan County, Putnam County, Greene County, Social Circle and Lincoln County in east and central Georgia and Lakeside in DeKalb County. There could be more, but schools are not obligated to report practice activity publicly.

The 655 positive tests reported to the GHSA are more than double the roughly 300 the association had on file two weeks ago, but does not necessarily reflect a surge. It could be an increase in schools reporting, which is not mandatory or time-sensitive.

About 425 GHSA member schools have football teams. The GHSA stated that it no longer tracks the number of its schools that have sent in positive tests. The six schools that have canceled practices this week were confirmed independently.

There have been 1,180 athletes or coaches screened out of practices in the past seven weeks, the GHSA also revealed. The GHSA began requesting the data in late June to follow trends.

“The data is aggregate and for decision-making purposes,” GHSA associate director Don Corr stated in an email Tuesday. “It is our belief that this data is incomplete and varies due to individual infectious disease plans formulated by each member school.”

Each school district has its own protocol for dealing with positive COVID-19 tests. Many have stopped and started practices since June. Others have screened out some students and coaches while playing on with others who were not in contact.

Lakeside football coach Morris Starr said his program made the decision to shut down entirely until tentatively Aug. 10 after receiving word Sunday that a player tested positive.

“We were actually in a parent meeting discussing a plan, and once we got that call, we did our evaluation on when he might’ve been in contact with others and made the decision that it’s better to hold off until we had everything pinpointed,” Starr said. “We don’t have all the answers, so we have to do what’s best for the program.”

Putnam County football won’t resume until Aug. 10 after three players tested positive, according to The Eatonton Messenger. Putnam County’s other fall sports teams are still allowed to practice, the newspaper said.

Greene County made the call to shut down practice this week.

“We have a coach who tested positive, and he’s been socially distanced since July 22, so we’re going to stop for the rest of the week just to be safe,” Greene County football coach Larry Milligan told the AJC.

Lincoln County shut down its workouts July 23 for two weeks after four players tested positive within the previous week, Lincoln County superintendent Samuel Light confirmed to WRDW-TV in Augusta on Tuesday. The Red Devils plan to start official fall practice Aug. 10.

Social Circle confirmed Tuesday to the Walton Tribune that it has called off practices this week because of a positive test.

Morgan County football coach Bill Malone wrote parents and supporters Sunday saying he hoped to resume practices Aug. 3.

“Due to the number of exposures, it is in our best interest to suspend practice for the next five days,” Malone wrote. “We will not lift, condition, or practice until we believe the situation can be better controlled by our coaches.”

The first football games are scheduled for the week of Sept. 4.

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