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Coronavirus

Seven county coalition on hold — for now

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A fall sports coalition among seven counties in West Central Florida is on hold — for now. 

Athletic directors from Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, Polk, Osceola and Orange counties were trying to work together to keep their sports calendars aligned, especially with so many cross-county district games on their schedules. They even left open the possibility of opting out of the state series to create their own postseason this year. 

But after meeting virtually the past two weeks, the athletic directors from those counties decided to wait before teaming together to create something on their own.

They wanted to hold off after the Florida High School Athletic Association pushed back the start of fall practices until at least Aug. 24. The delay gives the organization’s board of directors more time to review safety guidelines provided by the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), as well as ponder three options for starting sports in the fall before an in-person meeting Aug. 14 in Gainesville.

“We were all in agreement that we wanted to wait and see what was decided at the board of directors meeting before doing anything on our own,” Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said. “We all want to stay in the state series if that’s possible, and we want to see what that will look like.

“The option of having a coalition is something we want to still have in our back pocket in case we need to go in that direction.”

The plan for area counties is to keep schedules intact as much as possible. For example, two of the options for fall sports have regular season games starting in early-to-mid September. If that happens, the schedules can pick up where those dates fall.

Still, Bennett said the schedules, particularly in football, could be reduced by a game or two depending on the number of positive cases for Covid-19 and how many players have to be quarantined when that happens.   

“As much as we want to keep the schedules the same, this is going to take some flexibility,” Bennett said. “Some teams might not be able to play one week depending on how many players are quarantined. We want to have every option available to get in as many games as possible.”

Pinellas County has had eight positive cases from either an athlete, a coach or a trainer during summer conditioning. Those who tested positive had to be quarantined, as well as anyone who came within six feet for more than a 15-minute duration. 

But there is some hope. 

With the percentage of positive cases dwindling in Pinellas, Bennett decided to ease some restrictions with summer conditioning. 

This past Monday, Pinellas County went into phase three for workouts. School gymnasiums and weight rooms are now open with restrictions. 

  • Weight rooms can have no more than 15 players/coaches per workout, which are limited to 45 minutes. 
  • Gymnasiums can have no more than 20 players/coaches per workout with social distancing required.
  • Locker rooms remained closed. 

Another big addition is allowing one-on-one drills with linemen and skill players, provided they each wear masks.

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Baseball

No more fans at Pasco County sporting events after COVID spike

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Stock football stadium

Pasco County has decided to limit all athletic activities to students and coaches due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

That means no fans or media members in attendance. 

The new rule starts on Monday and will last until the positivity rate, which has climbed to nine percent, drops to below five percent for a rolling seven-day period. 

In the past two weeks, two county football teams — Wiregrass Ranch and Fivay — had to forfeit playoff games because of a player testing positive for coronavirus and multiple team members and coaches having to quarantine due to contact tracing. 

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Coronavirus

COVID case ends Osceola’s volleyball season

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Osceola, which made the Class 5A region finals in volleyball last season, had to forfeit Monday’s district quarterfinal match because its entire junior varsity and varsity teams are quarantining after a player tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 25, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said.  

By forfeiting, the Warriors ended their season. They were ranked fifth in the state in Class 5A and were expected to go on another deep playoff run.

“We have to follow what the health officials tell us,” Bennett said. “It’s tough because Osceola is one of our best volleyball teams in the county. I talked to the Florida High School Athletic Association and they said there were plenty of other teams around the state in the same situation.”

Under CDC and Pinellas County health department guidelines, any student athlete who tests positive must be quarantined, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15-minute duration without any face covering. Osceola’s quarantine ends on Oct. 19, a week after the district tournament.. 

All the players have currently tested negative, including the one who was originally positive. But the quarantine did not end. The Warriors also had to postpone their appearance in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. That title game against St. Petersburg will be made up once the Green Devils’ season ends. 

“It’s heartbreaking for the seniors to have their season end this way, but we’re really excited for the chance to play the PCAC Final at home for senior night as our last match of the season, against our toughest competition, St Petersburg,” Osceola coach Ashley Martin said.”It will feel like a state championship since a trophy is involved.”    

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PHU cancels season opener after a football player tests positive for coronavirus

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Palm Harbor University’s season opener against rival East Lake this Friday has been cancelled after a Hurricanes player tested positive for coronavirus, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett confirmed in a text message.

It was unclear how many PHU players are currently under quarantine. According to CDC and county health department guidelines, a player who tests positive must quarantine, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15 minute duration with a face covering.

The Hurricanes next game is scheduled for Sept. 17 at Wharton. Bennett said the school is looking into moving that game to Saturday or Monday to avoid another cancellation.

The Eagles will now host Sarasota Riverview in Friday’s opener.

This is the fourth area football program that had to cancel its season opener after having a player test positive for the virus.

Hillsborough and Jefferson, which were supposed to play on Friday, both have players under quarantine. Their opponents, Chamberlain and Gaither, are now kicking off the regular season against each other.

Zephyrhills is in a similar situation and had to cancel its first two games.

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