School sports blamed for 45% of middle, high school NC COVID-19 clusters

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Cameron County, on the Gulf Coast of Texas and bordering Mexico, has seen a dramatic uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases among unaccompanied migrant children held in detention facilities in the county. (file/MGN photo)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Months after the CDC warned extracurricular activities were behind many COVID-19 cases in children, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported it was seeing an increase in COVID-19 cluster stemming from school sports teams.

The state reported between July 1 and Sept. 2, 2021, school sports teams accounted for 45 percent of all clusters in middle and high schools.

The state also reported for the week ending Sept. 4, children 17 and under made up 31 percent of the new COVID-19 cases. That was the state’s highest percentage since the pandemic began.

NCDHHS said athletes in basketball, football, cheerleading, wrestling were at higher risk because of prolonged, close contact.

The state continues to recommend everyone 12 and older get the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We need everyone, including our student athletes and their coaches, to increase layers of prevention to fight this more contagious Delta variant: Don’t wait to vaccinate and urge others to do the same,” NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer and State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, said in a news release.

Between July 1 and Sept. 2, the state reported 42 athletics-related clusters in middle and high schools. The state saw the highest increase once school started in August. Four athletics clusters occurred in July.

The state said while they cannot distinguish how people were exposed in these clusters, past public health investigations in other states showed spread among teammates often happens off the field, including during practice.

The state recommends the following for sports teams:

  • Wearing of face masks in indoor settings
  • Practice social distancing when possible
  • Disinfect equipment frequently and avoid sharing water bottles
  • Consider creating pods for work outs

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