Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Friday he has asked the Arkansas Activities Association to submit a plan to the Arkansas Department of Health to submit a plan to hold football, cheerleading and volleyball this fall.
He also said he is establishing a high school advisory group to advise him on the best practices he can take in order to keep student athletes healthy as the state moves into the school year, to be chaired by Greg Bledsoe.
“I’ve heard from parents, student athletes, coaches and many other educators, and sports, as they’ve made the point, is a very important part of the development of our youth. If we do not have sports, then many of the student athletes will be traveling out of state which adds another level of risk,” Hutchinson said.
Football teams will also be able to begin practicing starting Monday, August 3, he said. Up until now, teams have been prohibited from practicing together due to the risk of COVID-19 spreading; training and conditioning has been allowed provided players had sufficient space to social distance with at least 12 feet between themselves.
He said that in the three weeks between Monday and when school starts on August 24, the state will observe and issue any further recommendations needed to protect players, as well as Band members.
“My message for the football players for Monday is to grab your helmet and be ready for practice,” Hutchinson said. “And then after practice, I want you to grab your mask so that you can protect others that you might be around. This is very important as we enter into this season is that the risk is not only on the practice field, but the risk is also as we go about the community.”
Hutchinson said it will be important for coaches and school staff to set the example for players and students in wearing masks and abiding by ADH guidelines as they go about their daily lives and their duties in high school athletics.
The announcement comes the same day as Hutchinson announced the largest single-day increase in cases in Union County; he said there were 29 new cases in the county Friday, bringing the cumulative number of cases identified locally to 425.
This is a developing story. More information will be provided in Saturday’s edition of the News-Times.