Tenn. Health Commissioner on contact sports: ‘…just like with in-classroom learning, you don’t have to do it’

Local Coronavirus Coverage

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- During Governor Lee’s Thursday press briefing in Nashville, a reporter asked about contact sports, citing multiple cases among athletes in one of our region’s school systems.

The reporter was referring to the confirmed COVID-19 cases at both Greeneville Middle School and Greeneville High School.

Greeneville City Schools announced earlier in the week that it would be shutting down athletics at both schools after multiple students tested positive for COVID-19.

The reporter asked the question to state health officials, “How can you ensure that kids are safe but also having these participations in these contact sports where people could have close contact?”

Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey answered that question by saying, “Let me preface this by saying like any good southern woman I love football just as much as anybody else does, but talk about a higher risk activity. It’s higher risk than sitting in a classroom when you are sweating and hitting people in a contact sport. We also know that sports are crucial to peoples well being, mental well being, physical well being, and so what we tried to do with the sports guidelines is make it to where they can participate in the safest manner possible but I’ll remind you just like with in-classroom learning, you don’t have to do it. I think we’ve seen some reports lately of some athletes opting out for a season and that is perfectly acceptable as well if you don’t want to bear the additional risk,” Dr. Piercey said.

Dr. Piercey also referenced a photo from the early 1900’s where a football game was held during a pandemic and the spectators were wearing masks.

“Our fans will need to wear masks in stadiums this year too to keep themselves safe as well,” Dr. Piercey said.

Local school districts have released plans for how they will handle crowds of fans at games this fall.

Just days ago, Elizabethton High School’s athletic department announced changes to ticket sales for fall sports due to COVID-19 that include limited sales, and the option of live streaming games for the fall season.

Johnson City Schools Board of Education just met Wednesday night to discuss safety guidelines for athletes and fans during Science Hill games this fall and will discuss plans once again next week.

You can watch Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s entire news briefing on our WJHL Facebook page below.

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