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Arizona schools chief Hoffman wants winter sports paused to slow COVID-19

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PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman believes that winter sports should be paused in schools in order to slow another spike of coronavirus cases in the state.

Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Tuesday that a postponement of winter sports would be one of several mitigation strategies that would help Arizona schools remain open during the pandemic.

“I know how much we love sports and it breaks my heart to be having this conversation as someone who loves sports, but we absolutely need to take steps to suspend winter sports,” Hoffman said.

“I don’t see how anyone thinks that basketball or wrestling is safe during this COVID-19 spike.”

The Arizona Interscholastic Association, the governing arm for high school sports in the state, made a recommendation Monday to its executive board to delay the start of winter sports until some time in January.

Hoffman said she would be speaking with Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ and David Hines, AIA executive director, on Wednesday to discuss the status of winter sports.

AZDHS could enact an emergency measure to stop sports, according to Hoffman, although the likeliness of that happening is unknown.

Some alterations have already been made for the winter season, which officially kicked off for practice on Nov. 9.

“We need to be proactive, not reactive,” Hoffman said. “As we see the cases spiking again in Arizona, we need to take action.”

The call for action comes as Arizona continues to see a surge in cases and more schools revert to virtual-only learning as a precautionary measure.

Phoenix Union High School District last week announced plans to formally end the fall sports season and delay the start of winter sports because of a rise in coronavirus cases in the state.

A total of 70 Maricopa County schools have reported COVID-19 outbreaks, with 54 of those still active. A total of 334 cases have been reported from those outbreaks.

The rolling seven-day average for the state health department’s newly reported cases was 2,459 for Monday, according to tracking by The Associated Press. That’s 85% higher than the Nov. 1 mark of 1,330 and the highest average since July 31.

Arizona reported 2,984 new coronavirus cases and 10 deaths on Tuesday, putting the state’s totals at 279,896 COVID-19 infections and 6,312 fatalities.

“The No. 1 thing we need to do to keep schools open is to bring down the risk of COVID,” Hoffman said.

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