NC high school sports are back; health expert says contact sports should not be played

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Fall high school sports are underway in North Carolina, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

For high-transmission areas, the CDC recommends canceling indoor sports or sports that can’t take place without a mask — unless all participants are vaccinated. Nearly all of North Carolina is classified as high transmission.

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill, said he does not think high contact sports should be played at this time.

“The whole idea that there could be contact sports going on back at school is almost surprising to me,” Wohl said. “In the history of bad ideas, this has to be somewhere near the top.”

The North Carolina State High School Athletic Association said it does not have plans to create a detailed adjusted guidelines document. The association’s current document has recommendations such as social distancing on the bench and teams working out in pods.

One week into high school football and COVID-19 is having an effect on some team schedules.

“The Terry Sanford High School vs. Glenn High School (Winston-Salem) has been postponed. Details regarding the number of players/coaches infected cannot be confirmed at this time,” David Culbreth, Cumberland County Schools director of student activities, announced Friday.

Hawaii is one of a few places in the United States that has a vaccine requirement for high school sports.

In North Carolina, Orange County considered a vaccine requirement for sports and certain extracurricular activities but voted against it.

Wohl does not think a vaccine requirement for contact sports would make them safe enough to play at this time.

“I don’t think this solves the problem, I don’t,” Wohl said. “Vaccines are a long a sequence, they’re a layer of protection. The best protection is don’t get infected to begin with, and that’s keeping distance and masking.”

Wohl recommends outdoor sports with six feet of social distancing. He said, ultimately, parents need to weigh the risk against the reward.

“All these activities where you have one person and another person close together you get transmission, that’s what’s happening nowadays,” Wohl said.

The North Carolina State High School Athletic Association said schools have the option to put stricter protocols in place.

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