The winter sports season for high schools in Maricopa County is currently on hold due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
In a chart sent out Thursday afternoon by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, seven of the 15 total counties in Arizona have been cleared to begin winter sports on Nov. 9 based on metrics set forth by the AIA's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee in the fall -- which includes cases per 100,000 people, the percentage of positivity and percentage of reported COVID-like illness.
Chart sent out by the AIA this afternoon shows only seven of Arizona's 15 counties are currently cleared to begin the winter sports season on Nov. 9. Maricopa County is not one of them. pic.twitter.com/P6tLvHCeZq— Zach Alvira (@ZachAlvira) November 5, 2020
The number of cases per 100,000 was initially set at 10 by SMAC in August. However, it was revised to 75 which allowed football, a heavy contact sport, to begin.
The AIA will use the same metrics going forward for winter sports. However, rising cases across the state have resulted in several counties, including Maricopa County, to be above the threshold for the winter season to begin on time.
As it stands, Maricopa County currently has 115 cases per 100,000 people. The positivity percentage, which SMAC aims to be five or below, currently sits at 6.4 percent. COVID-like illness in Maricopa County is 3.3 percent.
An email from Gilbert Public Schools was sent to district families Thursday morning explaining the delay to the start of the season. A copy of the email was obtained by The Tribune.
“Due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in Maricopa County, we will not be starting Winter sports on November 9th as scheduled,” the email said. “At this time, we do not know when Winter sports will be allowed to begin.
“We will continue to monitor the data that is released by the Arizona Department of Health each Thursday and will begin out Winter sports season as soon as data reflects that it is safe to do so.”
Similar communications were shared with families in Chandler, Mesa and in the Tempe Union High School District, which oversees Ahwatukee schools Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista.
Soccer and basketball will be cleared for practices and competition once community spread is deemed to be at the "moderate" level. To get there, Maricopa County would need to see its number of cases per 100,000 people fall below 100. Wrestling will be able to begin practice when counties are in the "moderate" spread phase. Competitions, however, can not begin until "minimal" spread is achieved.
As was the case in the fall, sports cleared to begin will not have to pause if numbers rise in their respective counties or communities. The AIA's guidance regarding COVID-19 cases within specific athletic programs remains intact.