Orange County schools won’t suspend sports, will require masks and limit attendance

COVID-19 and schools

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Spectators will be limited and masks will be required throughout games, but Orange County Schools will not suspend any sports due to COVID-19.

The school board approved the new protocols as a way to prevent the spread of the virus. Each athlete will be limited to two guests in attendance. They will also be required to wear masks on and off the field or court, with the football field being an exception.

The district had considered a proposal that included closing high-risk activities like football, basketball, wrestling, and competitive cheerleading from Sept. 14 to Sept. 30.

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

During the five-hour-long meeting, the school board received an update on COVID-19 cases. Staff explained that while case numbers have been low, they want to keep them that way. 

Parents also had the chance to speak during public comment. More than a dozen of them did.

“School sports may seem optional to many of you but for many kids, that’s how they get through their day. They look forward to sports at the end of their school day,” parent Gretchen Smidt said.

“This suspension is only affecting one sport, and that is football because the other ones are out of season. I don’t understand the reasoning behind it,” said parent Anthony Cecil. 

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.

Elsewhere in central North Carolina, Moore County canceled its school board meeting scheduled for Monday. It was set to revisit its mask mandate. Harnett County voted to make masks optional for students and staff.

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