Orange County Schools to consider pausing football, basketball for 2 weeks due to COVID-19

COVID-19 and schools

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On Monday night, the Orange County School board will consider closing some sports programs for two weeks due to concerns they are “high risk” for COVID-19 transmission.

According to officials with Orange County school officials, they say they are following recommendations from state and local county health officials.

The proposal includes closing high-risk activities like football, basketball, wrestling and competitive cheerleading from Sept. 14 to Sept. 30.

In Orange County School’s Summary & Recommendations for Athletics & Sports Programs, it says that these sports are considered “high risk” for COVID-19 transmission due to close proximity of athletes on and off the field.

In addition, the recommendations say that students must be fully vaccinated if they want to participate in sports once the programs restart.

In “medium risk” sports, like cheerleading, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, volleyball, baseball, and softball, health officials are recommending only parents be allowed to attend and masks will be required for all athletes on and off the field.

In the Orange County school report, it says health officials are making the recommendations because they say from July 1 to Sept. 1, 45 percent of clusters and outbreaks in middle and high schools are linked to sports activities.

But according to school officials, there are no COVID-19 clusters in any of the high schools or athletic programs in Orange County.

Some parents with children who participate in high school athletics in Orange County argue that the district is taking their COVID-19 safety protocols to an extreme.

“They’re just right into the first quarter of the season for some of these sports, so it just cuts right into their progression towards their peak for the season,” said Gretchen Schmid, a parent with a son who runs cross country. “Those who are seniors, we’re going to take away their season again, it’s just not worth it.”

Orange County has one of the lowest COVID-19 positivity rates in the Triangle at 3.2 percent. Other counties such as Durham (6.9%) and Wake (7.4%) are more than twice that high, and Chatham (9.0%), Alamance (11.1%), and Person (12.9%) have positivity rates three to four times as high.

As of right now, there’s no word on other school districts in those counties planning to close sports programs.

The Orange County School Board will be voting on this during their Monday night board meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m.

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