By Joshua Huff, sports editor
Following the closure of Alabama schools for the remainder of March as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the AHSAA announced on Friday afternoon that high school sports will cease following games on Tuesday, March 17.
Schools could re-open around April 6, and around that time, the AHSAA said that it will reevaluate health conditions and determine the status of spring sports championship play.
“Based on the Governor’s and the Alabama State Department of Education’s (ALSDE) directives to close all schools across the state for a period of 2.5 weeks beginning Wednesday, March 18, 2020, all athletic events including, but not limited to, contests, practices, weightlifting and conditioning are hereby suspended during this time,” the AHSAA wrote. “The last date for any athletic activity will be Tuesday, March 17th. The AHSAA will continue to work with the ALSDE, Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), Center of Disease Control (CDC) and the AHSAA Medical Advisory Board (MAB) to analyze the status of the current health situation.”
This follows Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announcing in a Friday afternoon press conference that all K-12 schools in Alabama will close at the end of the school day on Wednesday, March 18.
Ivey declared a state of emergency where she announced the two-and-a-half week break for public schools. Trussville City Schools announced late Friday afternoon that it will close its schools follow the conclusion of the school day on Friday, March 19, and re-open Friday, April 3. No makeup days or eLearning are necessary.
These closures follow the first confirmed coronavirus case in the state on Friday morning. That person is a civilian employee at Maxwell Air Force Base who happened to fall ill after traveling home from Illinois.
“We have been expecting to find a case for some time. We’ve tried to be very open about that. We are not surprised that we found a case,” State Health Officer Scott Harris said at a news conference early Friday morning.
The hiatus in the school year allows for citizens to limit exposure to the coronavirus and help fund a public health response to the spreading virus.
Since a state of emergency was declared, students will not have to make up for the missed schools days.
Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey recommended that sporting events, field trips and performances be either postponed or canceled.
Ivey stated that schools could re-open by April 6.
The Alabama Department of Public Health recommended that people cancel or avoid large public gatherings with more than 500 people — schools and workplaces not included. Harris also said people should stay about 6 feet apart from others in public and to “please stay home if you are sick.”
Alabama was one of the last states to report a case. The state lab began testing last week, Harris said.
State labs as of Thursday had only tested about 50 people for coronavirus.
Harris said testing at the state lab was initially limited to priority cases where people were considered most at risk because of travel to another country or because they were seriously ill. He said testing criteria has now been liberalized and the state will test a person when a doctor recommends it.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. More than 5,000 deaths worldwide have been attributed to the virus.
Ivey urged people to remain calm and take common sense precautions.
“We have taken a calm and collected approach in preparation for this first confirmed case, and we need to remember that calm and steady wins the race,” Ivey said in a statement. “Alabamians should not be fearful, but instead, use commonsense to watch out for themselves and others. We will remain engaged on the matter and continue prioritizing the health and wellbeing of all Alabamians.”
Major universities, including he University of Alabama, Auburn University, Troy University and other institutions on Thursday announced a shift to online classes.