Polk County Schools suspend sports amid rising student athlete COVID-19 cases

More than 50 student-athletes have recently tested positive, district says

(Laurence Griffiths/Getty images)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – With coronavirus cases rising Polk County Public Schools temporarily suspended all student-athlete programs in order to limit the spread of the virus, officials announced Tuesday.

Effective immediately, athletics are cancelled and are scheduled to resume on Jan. 4 after the holiday break. This includes games, practices and competitions.

The school district has implemented precautions to prevent the spread at sports and athletic activities but more than 50 student athletes have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, according to the school district.

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“Right now, we have cases among cheerleaders, basketball and soccer players, wrestlers and weight lifters,” Polk County Florida Department of Health Scott Sjoblom said in a statement, about recent positive cases.

Sjoblom leads the county DOH’s COVID response team.

Senior Coordinator of Athletics Dan Talbot said the district will continue to monitor cases through the winter break but as of Tuesday the plan is to restart after the break.

“We are pausing athletics to do our part in slowing the spread,” Talbot said.

Throughout the fall semester, Polk County limited attendance to games, required spectators wear face coverings and required athletes and coaches to wear masks as much as possible.

There are three available COVID-19 testing sites for students, parents and Polk County School District staff. A full list can be found here.

According to the Florida Department of Health school COVID-19 database, 173 Polk County schools have reported cases in students and/or staff since August.

Since March, Polk County has reported more than 31,300 positive cases to the Florida Department of Health, including 743 deaths and more than 3,143 hospitalizations.

As of Tuesday morning more than 150 patients were currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Polk County, according to the Agency for Healthcare Administration dashboard.

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