Despite being advised that it was not safe to begin playing football and girls' volleyball, the Florida High School Athletic Association board voted 10-5 this week to maintain the July 27 start date for fall sports teams to begin practicing amid surging coronavirus cases in the state.
“It is our stance that return to competition for the high-risk sports of football and volleyball is not medically safe,” said Jennifer Maynard, a physician at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville who also serves as chair of the FHSAA's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
As reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Maynard presented the SMAC’s report on returning to play at the beginning of a nearly five-hour meeting viewed by several thousand people on Zoom and YouTube. The SMAC presented three benchmarks for when those sports could return to play: a downward trajectory in coronavirus cases or percentage of positive tests, a total positive percentage of less than 5 percent for at least 28 days, using a seven-day rolling average, and at least two weeks of practice before the season begins.
The motion to maintain the current sports calendar, presented by Wewahitchka athletic director Bobby Johns, also allows schools to remove themselves from the state series — including the state championship games — if they decide they cannot begin the season on time safely. Schools do not have to begin fall practices on July 27.
The decision may make it harder for teams in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to compete for a state championship in fall sports. Those three counties have registered 43 percent of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases.
Florida currently leads the nation in active coronavirus cases.