With the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) allowing restricted conditioning to resume for high school athletics on June 8, it appears that if school resumes, Fall sports may be on track to having a normal season after the Spring sports season and the 2019-20 school year was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, given the makeup of Region 7-AAA, the 2020-21 sports schedule may still be affected by COVID-19.
The GHSA has implemented guidelines for the protection of all athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, other medical personnel and all affiliated support staff in accordance to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the GHSA’s policies.
Although the guidelines are to be flexible and subject to change as time, information and research is updated; the current guidelines could completely disrupt the 2020 Fall sports season.
Some of the main concerns in the GHSA’s guidelines deals with the process for screening and testing. The GHSA has recommended that every athlete, coach or staff member be screened prior to participating in any workout. If an athlete, coach or staff member presents symptoms or has had recent direct exposure, they will be removed from activity and will not be allowed to return until they offer proof of a negative COVID-19 test or undergo a 14 day quarantine and are symptom free. Furthermore, if at any time an athlete, coach or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, all other members of that workout group will be notified and will not be allowed to return until the previously listed requirements are met.
That could spell big trouble for Region 7-AAA, especially given that three of the conference’s seven member schools are currently in the fifth highest county in the state of Georgia in number of positive cases. If any of these teams loses players due to the GHSA protocols for sports amid the pandemic, then the region could suffer a huge blow that could put the Fall sports schedule in jeopardy.
Here is a breakdown of the seven Region 7-AAA schools and how their counties have been affected by COVID-19 as of press-time.
CHEROKEE BLUFF, NORTH HALL AND WEST HALL
With Hall County being one of the hotspots for the pandemic in the state of Georgia, the Cherokee Bluff Bears, the North Hall Trojans and the West Hall Spartans could be the three teams in Region 7-AAA whose 2020-21 seasons might be impacted the most by COVID-19. And, with the Bears, Trojans and Spartans making up almost half of the Region 7-AAA teams, that could spell disaster for the conference if any of the three teams are unable to go during the 2020-21 season.
Hall County, according to Department of Public Health (DPH) statistics at the beginning of this week, ranks fifth in Georgia with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. With 2,467 confirmed cases, 47 total deaths and 326 hospitalizations; the Bears, Trojans and Spartans will have to be extremely cautious when it comes to restarting their sports programs.
The Gilmer Bobcats have seen 153 confirmed cases in their county, but as of the beginning of the week there have been no deaths in Gilmer County due to the coronavirus. There have been, however, 20 hospitalizations reported in the area.
The White County Warriors have seen 101 total confirmed cases, three deaths and 20 hospitalizations due to the pandemic.
The home of the Indians, Lumpkin County, hovers just below the 100 mark in the DPH’s COVID-19 numbers with 99 confirmed cases and has shown a slight decline in new confirmed cases since the end of April. The county has suffered only one death and currently has 19 hospitalized due to the coronavirus
Out of the remaining counties represented in Region 7-AAA, Dawson County has seen slightly more confirmed cases (109) than Lumpkin and White counties. The county has also suffered one death due to the pandemic.
Given these numbers, if any of these teams were to have to bow out of their 2020 Fall sports seasons due to infection and quarantines based on the GHSA guidelines, it could dramatically impact the entire region.
A worst case scenario could threaten to cancel Fall sports for all of Region 7-AAA.