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Lt. Gov. Jon Husted downplays coronavirus testing mandate in relation to Ohio high school sports

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 8/4/2020 By Matt Goul, cleveland.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With last weekend’s renewal of a state order that requires coronavirus testing within 72 hours of a contact sports event, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted downplayed what that means in relation to high school sports this fall.

Husted distanced that order Tuesday during a briefing in Columbus from a return-to-play plan for sanctioned high school sports.

"There's been some confusion that the renewal of this order means the return to fall competition at schools," Husted said. "That's not the case. We're still working with the Ohio High School Athletic Association. We're still considering many options. We want student-athletes to return to play."

At the moment, neither Husted nor Gov. Mike DeWine are committal about the status of high school sports while the OHSAA continues to emphasize its plan to move forward in conjunction with the state government.

"Frankly we want to get a little bit closer to the date and see what happens with the COVID," DeWine said.

Official fall practices began Saturday around the state in most counties. Some schools have opted out of allowing their teams to compete while they conduct remote learning, including the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and most of Cuyahoga County to comply with a county board of health recommendation.

Some schools have already changed course and will allow their teams to begin practice, including Brush, Mayfield, Maple Heights. Other schools, such as Euclid and Shaker Heights, are being petitioned by parents of their football players to allow practices.

The OHSAA, in its memo Friday to schools, noted the start of the football season is contingent on the Ohio Department of Health lifting its requirement for COVID-19 testing within a 72-hour period before competition. The OHSAA also noted a Sept. 4 deadline before it will move fall contact sports into a condensed schedule with winter and spring sports between mid-December and the end of next June.

“We do not know what the next three weeks will bring, let alone the next three months,” said DeWine, who also announced the state has 1,143 new COVID-19 cases in a Tuesday report. “Every school district faces a different reality because every school district is in a different place.”

Additionally, DeWine said he will take a recommendation from the Ohio Children's Hospital Association to require masks for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Contact sports reporter Matt Goul on Twitter (@mgoul) or email (mgoul@cleveland.com).

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