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Phoenix Union postpones sports until COVID-19 benchmarks are met

(AP Photo/LM Otero, file)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Union in a press release on Friday announced sports activities will be postponed starting Monday until state and county health coronavirus benchmarks are met for a safe return.

Sports conditioning was cautiously allowed during the summer in preparation for fall sports and to keep students positively engaged during the pandemic.

The school, however, does not feel it is safe to continue in-person workouts, saying in the release that the community spread of COVID-19 still far exceeds recently released health benchmarks for a return to school.

Arizona health officials on Aug. 6 released benchmarks for schools to open for in-person instruction this academic year.

The benchmarks include a positive rate of 7% or less for two consecutive weeks, hospital visits due to COVID-like illness under 10% and case rates less than 100 per 100,000 people or a two-week decline in number of cases.

Maricopa County, where Phoenix Union is located, has met two of three coronavirus benchmarks, Arizona health officials reported Thursday.

The state’s most populous county had a two-week decline in cases and decreased hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses, but did not meet the benchmark of two consecutive weeks with a positivity rate of 7% or less.

While the metrics are guidelines, not requirements, most school districts have followed the benchmarks set forth by health officials and began the school year with virtual-only instruction.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association, meanwhile, also recently approved a phased-in return to fall sports.

AIA Executive Director David Hines told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Aug. 6 that low-risk, minimal-concern sports such as golf, swimming and cross country will be phased-in first before slowly getting to volleyball and football later on.

“We feel with the mitigations and the modifications we have that we can be an example of how you can continue to bring our kids back safely,” Hines said.

Phoenix Union in the release said coaches will stay in contact with student-athletes during the postponement to assign workouts, conduct virtual team meetings and check grades and attendance in order to maintain a sense of team and community.

While the hope is athletics will resume later in the school year, Phoenix Union said they must place the health and safety of students, coaches and the community ahead of the desire to allow students to compete in sports.

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