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Rise in COVID-19 cases forces IHSA to walk back Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines

Belleville News-Democrat logoBelleville News-Democrat 7/10/2020 By Dean Criddle, Belleville News-Democrat

The Illinois High School Association, under directives from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the governor’s office, has joined with the IDPH to make adjustments in its Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines.

The announcement of the adjustments, made Thursday, comes less than a week after the IDPH approved Phase 4 of the Return to Play plan.

But an increased number of positive COVID-19 cases among high school teams and athletes has resulted in adjustments in the following three areas.

There cannot be any contact drills/physical contact among athletes.

All persons must always wear masks (they are working to determine if this includes outside while social distancing).

There must be a strict 50 person limit to all indoor activities, and that would include any spectators (people in those groups should also socially distance).

The changes have been shared with the Illinois Department of Public Health but have not yet been approved.

“This is just a time in which we need to be patient and flexible. We want to do whatever it takes to get our athletes back practicing and be able to compete this fall in every sport,” Belleville West Athletic Director Lee Meyer said. “With that being said, our ultimate goal is the safety of our student-athletes and coaches. The last thing we want is to take a step backward and jeopardize everything we’ve been working so hard to accomplish.”

Triad High School football coach Paul Bassler said his team had just gone out to the practice field Thursday when the directive from the IHSA was announced.

“Actually we were just heading out. We came back in and put the masks on. But it was tough. We actually cut it (workout) short today. We did some drills. But football without contact ... that’s hard to do,” Bassler said.

“I think it would be difficult to prepare for a football season without contact drills or physical contact because once you do go live and the players aren’t used to the contact, that could be very dangerous.”

Phase 4 guidelines, which went effect on Sunday, marked the first time since March 12 there could be games held and physical contact in athletic events. Because of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, the remainder of the IHSA boys state basketball state tournament and the entire IHSA spring sports season were canceled.

The start of official practice for the IHSA fall sports season is about a month away for boys and girls golf, girls tennis, boys soccer, cross country, football and girls volleyball.

Triad AD expresses concern over sports happening in the fall

On Thursday, what appeared to be the start of the return getting back on the playing field earlier in the week has turned into concern for at least one local athletic director.

“It’s kind a like your best friend taking you to his favorite fishing hole, you catching a couple of big bass, and then him telling you that you cannot fish there anymore,” Triad Athletic Director Ken Deatherage said “We took a couple of steps in the right direction only to take a couple more back today.

“I have generally been optimistic this entire time, but after today’s adjustments, I worry about us having sports this fall.”

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©2020 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)

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