Georgia high school football teams have already started tackling each other this week, as public health officials say the state’s new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining.
The season’s first two games kicked off Wednesday night – with the Cherokee Warriors defeating the Carver Panthers at home, 38 to 12, and the Mays Raiders losing to the West Forsyth Wolverines 42 to 6.
Videos on Twitter showed the Cherokee high school marching band and cheerleaders social distancing on the field, and Cherokee athletics officials said they sold out of home seats with capacity limits recommended by the Georgia High School Association.
The GHSA, which governs high school sports in the state, issued strongly recommended screening guidelines for student athletes this fall.
That includes all players wearing face masks while not actively competing. GHSA also recommends that athletes, coaches and staff showing symptoms of the coronavirus be tested before games.
But testing for the coronavirus is the responsibility of each individual school district, according to GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines.
“We certainly don’t mandate testing, and I’m not aware of any school that has a testing program like you see in Division 1 football,” Hines told WABE.
Hines said that if a student is showing symptoms of the coronavirus, they should be sent home, tested and should self-quarantine.
“We certainly don’t have the resources that colleges or the professionals do,” he said, noting that could cost the GHSA hundreds of thousands of dollars. But overwhelmingly, Hines said that most parents want their children back on the field, and Friday night football, with precautions and social distancing, is a return to some sense of normalcy.
“They are concerned about their children’s emotional, physical and mental well-being,” Hines said.
“There were a lot of times in the last several months that we could have just folded our tent, like a lot of people did. There could be some bumps in the road, and we’ll be prepared to deal with that as they come.”
Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.