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Club sports teams coming to Arizona could add to coronavirus dilemma

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PHOENIX — Hundreds of club sports teams from Arizona and out of state are playing in tournaments around the Valley during the coronavirus pandemic, which could spell trouble for rising cases in the state.

Other states, like California, won’t allow the club sports competitions — and the crowds they bring — that could spread COVID-19.

“We heard about this, and did some basic online searches after we had cases that were associated with these club sports,” Marcy Flanagan, Maricopa County Department of Public Health executive director, said.

She told reporters in a webinar briefing on Thursday the state has no restrictions on club or recreational sports.

However, the Arizona Interscholastic Association board, the governing body for high school sports in the state, did vote on Thursday to postpone the beginning of the winter sports season until Jan. 5, 2021, citing rising virus metrics.

“Is there a safe way for our students to be involved in physical activity? There is a safe way for that to happen,” Flanagan said. “From reports we’re hearing, it’s not happening at all of these tournaments.”

The viral spread can come from the field and on the sidelines where parents are cheering. Public Health can only provide guidelines, not enforcement.

“That’s when individual responsibility and decisions are really important for parents and athletes that are participating in these events,” Flanagan said.

Even though coronavirus cases are soaring in Maricopa County, asking the state to tighten its benchmarks that guide schools and businesses to close would not be fair, county spokesman Fields Moseley said.

“Moving the goalposts on any of these organizations, in particular schools, which your local public health departments deal with all the time, that is not the plan and would not be fair,” Moseley said.

He adds there’s no “one size fits all approach,” because schools, businesses and communities all have different needs, circumstances and levels of spread.

Moseley said the county worked with Arizona’s Department of Health Services to formulate the benchmarks and metrics of community spread and coronavirus symptoms.

“When all three benchmarks are in red is when schools go back to virtual learning,” Flanagan said. “However, many of our schools have decided to go back to virtual learning with less than all three in the red.

In schools, she adds most outbreaks, two or more coronavirus cases, happen among older teens.

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