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story.lead_photo.caption Terrance Armstard/ News-Times In this file photo, El Dorado Oilers infielder Trace Shoup waits for a pitch during an American Legion game against Sheridan during the 2019 season. On Thursday, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that competition in some youth sports can begin on June 1. High school sports competition was halted back in March due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Lets play ball this summer.”

With those words, Governor Asa Hutchinson gave the go-ahead Thursday for some youth sports in Arkansas to resume competition starting June 1 with restrictions in place.

Practice and competition for limited-contact sports such as baseball, softball, track, gymnastics and swimming can resume with physical distancing whenever possible.

Participants are asked to use their own equipment and disinfect any that are shared.

Participation is discouraged for those age 65-plus or have health concerns.

Sports with close contact such as basketball, wrestling, football, volleyball, soccer and martial arts can also begin to practice individually with their own equipment, but competition is prohibited.

Conditioning and training with limited group size and distancing was also approved.

Cheerleading and dance may also practice under gym directive restrictions.

Hutchinson added that the directives that are in place for close-contact sports will be revisited on June 30 with Dr. Nathaniel Smith, the state’s health secretary.

Directives for competition were also given, including physical distancing except during sports activity. Athletes, coaches and staff will be screened about fever, symptoms and exposure.

Temperature checks will be conducted for coaches and staff, and face coverings are required for everyone 10 or older.

Athletes can remove their face covering during active sports activity, but coaches and staff must wear a face covering at all times.

The use of showers is prohibited with locker rooms being used only for storage. Equipment and facilities must be sanitized frequently.

Athletes are asked to avoid huddles, high-fives or any other non-sport related contact.

The directive for gyms also applies to training facilities, and any ticket sales should be made online if possible.

High school sports were brought to a halt by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, and the Arkansas Activities Association has a dead period in place until May 30.

“I’m delighted that we can play some ball, even under challenging circumstances with some restrictions that we’re not used to,” Hutchinson said.

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