The Penobscot Times

Old Town High School pushes start of winter sports to end of December as virus precaution

OLD TOWN, Maine — Old Town High School is postponing the start of the winter sports season for two weeks beyond the state’s recommendations, citing a rise in local COVID-19 cases and a risk of virus transmission as people travel for the holidays. 

Athletics will start team try-outs or regular practices on Dec. 21, the school announced Wednesday. “By starting this week, we lessen the chance of exposure to our established learning pods and we can use the holiday break as a buffer for any exposures [or] outbreak concerns,” Athletic Director Jeremy Bousquet said. 

The Maine Principals Association recommends schools to begin their winter athletic seasons in separate phases based on the individual sport’s risk of spreading the coronavirus. 

Level one sports can begin Dec. 7 with skills and drill sessions at home, alone or with household members. Levels two and three sports can start Dec. 14 with practices and scrimmages within teams, and level four can take place Jan. 11 with competitions among teams from the same geographic areas. 

“The start dates of Dec. 7 and Jan. 11 allow for time to pass after holidays when people may be traveling or at gatherings that increase the risk of COVID-19 spread,” the organization said. 

As of Nov. 29, Old Town had approximately 29 cases of COVID-19, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Conversely, Orono — which had 54 cases as of Nov. 29 — will begin its high school sports season Dec. 7.

Health officials have been warning Mainers since October of a “forceful and widespread,” community transmission happening throughout the entire state that is likely to continue. 

Tuesday marked the highest number of coronavirus deaths reported on a single day since Nov. 24. Not all 12 deaths reported Tuesday occurred in the past 24 hours and the death total also includes those newly confirmed to have involved the coronavirus. 

Additionally, 44 new cases were reported in Penobscot County Tuesday, compared to Cumberland County which had 47 and Lincoln with zero new cases.

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