Fla. High School Football to Resume Despite Doctors Advising Sports Will Add 'Fuel to the Fire'
"Until this virus is given the respect it deserves to quiet down, introducing sports adds fuel to the fire," Dr. Jennifer Maynard said
High school sports, including football, have been given the green light to begin in Florida later this month — despite warnings from doctors that introducing sports to communities only "adds fuel to the fire" of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Florida High School Athletic Association's board of directors voted on Friday to allow schools to begin fall sports on August 24, the FHSAA announced in a press release last week.
There are two caveats to the vote, which was motioned by Carlos Ochoa, the Athletic Director at Hialeah Gardens High School in Miami-Dade, and seconded by Bobby Johns, Wewahitchka Athletic Director.
The motion to begin fall sports so soon was approved in an 11-5 vote, "with the caveats that schools would not have a minimum contest limit to be eligible for State Series play and that schools may opt out of the State Series by September 18th with the ability to form their own regional schedule upon approval from the FHSAA."
Fall sports include football, girls' volleyball, swimming, diving, cross country, golf, and bowling. Games will be allowed to begin as soon as September 4.
All coaches will be required to read a course title "COVID-19 for Coaches and Administrators," and schools will be given a COVID waiver.
"Executive Director, George Tomyn, says he is happy student-athletes finally have the chance to compete again and states the Association is eager to work with schools and school districts to help them convene participation at the appropriate times," the FHSAA's press release stated.
The association's medical advisory board has advised, however, that fall sports be delayed until at least September 28, NBC News reported.
Dr. Jennifer Maynard, the head of the medical advisory committee, said, "until this virus is given the respect it deserves to quiet down, introducing sports adds fuel to the fire," per NBC News.
Among the medical advisory board's recommended criteria for beginning school sports included two weeks of decreasing daily cases in the school's county, and a positive test rate below five percent, NBC News reported. None of the counties in Florida meet those recommendations, according to the outlet.
Some counties in Florida have already said that sports will not begin so soon.
Orange County has not yet announced a start date for fall sports, while Brevard County has said it will not begin practices for now, ClickOrlando reported. Other counties have delayed their start dates, like Seminole County Public Schools, which will start on August 30, and Osceloa County, which will begin on September 7, according to the outlet.
The FHSAA's decision to allow fall sports to begin comes a day after NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that college athletes will not have championship games this fall, with the exception of NBS football.
Florida has had at least 573,408 positive cases of COVID-19, with 40,610 reported in the last week, according to data from the New York Times.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.