Arizona Interscholastic Association postpones winter sports season until 2021 due to COVID-19 surge

Officials with the Arizona Interscholastic Association announced on Nov. 19 that the winter sports season for student-athletes in Arizona will be postponed for the rest of the year.

In a statement posted on the AIA's website, officials say the season will not be postponed until Jan. 5, 2021, with the last permissible day of competition for all winter sports falling on Feb. 19.

“Delaying the start of the season will give our coaches and administrators time to implement safety protocols and put sports modifications in place," AIA Executive Director David Hines said, in the statement.

In addition to season delay, various modifications will be required, including social distancing, a regular handwashing regimen for players, coaches, game officials and others, and other social distancing measures in the dressing facilities for game officials and teams. Also, no fans will be permitted at competitions, and out-of-state competitions, as well as scrimmages, invitational tournaments or region tournaments will not be permitted to take place.

In addition, officials say the first day where spring sports practices can begin has been pushed back to Feb. 15, from Feb. 8.

The delay to the winter sports season came on the same day Arizona saw 4,123 newly-reported cases of COVID-19, marking the biggest increase in a single day since July.

On Nov. 18, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey warned that coronavirus cases are increasing at an alarming rate, but he stopped short of implementing any major new virus prevention restrictions or imposing a statewide mask mandate, as Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman have urged.

The number of reported infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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