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Mon, Oct. 26

Spectators encouraged to social distance, wear masks at sporting events

Vikings Preston Ford and Raymond Gonzales run plays in an early season football practice.  (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Vikings Preston Ford and Raymond Gonzales run plays in an early season football practice. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Williams Unified School District is encouraging the community to help keep its athletes healthy as its volleyball and football teams head into their first games of the season.

Williams High School volleyball faced Chino Valley in a scrimmage Sept. 18 and has their home-opener Sept. 29 against Seligman. Vikings football has their first game on the road with Bagdad Oct. 2

With those games looming, WUSD has outlined a set of recommended guidelines to keep players and community members healthy.

“We encourage spectators to social distance, and if that isn’t possible, to wear a mask,” said WUSD Athletic Director Phillip Echeverria.”

In addition to those recommendations, WUSD is encouraging spectators to stay home if feeling sick, and when attending games, to remain in one area for the duration.

“We aren’t going to police people,” Echeverria said. “But we are inviting people from other communities and we are travelling to other communities. We do want to limit any spread to keep our athletes and families healthy.”

The district will not be collecting entrance fees, but encourages people to give donations to WHS athletics. There will also be no concessions at games.

For outdoor away events, WUSD encourages spectators to bring their own folding chairs.

Echeverria said WUSD is following the metrics set by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) for continuation of athletic activities and programs.

The protocols outline that a county should have two weeks below 75 cases per 100,000 or a two-week decline in the number of new cases, not including the current week. There should be two weeks with percent positivity below 7 percent, and two weeks with hospital visits due to COVID-like illnesses below 10 percent.

Member schools receive a weekly update of county COVID-19 metrics based on data by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

As of Sept. 17, Coconino County is within the metrics in all three categories. The figures show that Coconino County has 41 cases per 100,000. The county has a 2.1 percent positivity rates and 2.4 percent hospitalization. Meeting those metric guidelines means schools can have practices and attend competitions.

Despite the AIA reported metrics, Flagstaff Unified School District called off all athletic competitions temporarily, according to a press release Sept. 18.

The district was notified by Coconino County Health Department that cases of COVID-19 have met the substantial community spread threshold of 114.5 cases per 100,000 population.

The number has caused some confusion as the AIA reported Coconino County had met all thresholds set in its Sept. 17 metrics update to schools.

On Sept. 16, the AIA updated athletic protocols of the three stages at which activities can increase based on how coronavirus cases are trending in the state.

The previous protocol set county positive cases at 10 people or less per 100,000, but was changed to two weeks below 75 cases per 100,000 or a two-week decline in the number of new cases, not including the current week.

FUSD said no athletic competitions, meets, or tournaments may occur until further notice.

However, athletes will continue to be allowed to practice within the constraints of the specific sport modifications adopted by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

The restriction has impacted volleyball, golf and cross-country teams at Flagstaff and Coconino High Schools.

Both schools' volleyball teams were to have their opening games Sept. 23.

The Flagstaff Eagles football team is scheduled to play Mingus Union Oct. 2 in Flagstaff, and the Coconino Panthers football team has their opener against Marcos de Niza Oct. 2, also. It is unclear if any of those scheduled competitions will happen.

Flagstaff and Coconino were scheduled to participate in cross country races last weekend, which both schools were unable to attend.

The district said it will continue to monitor and evaluate the public health data weekly and provide updates as benchmarks are met for a return to play.

Williams Unified School District said as of now play will continue in all sports unless the metrics show otherwise.

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