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INDIANAPOLIS - Although Gov. Eric Holcomb announced last Wednesday that Indiana will extend for two weeks Stage 4.5 of its five-stage return from COVID-19 restrictions, high school sports moved into Phase 2 of reopening Monday.

While a spike in coronavirus cases, positive tests and hospitalizations had taken place, Phase 2 of the IHSAA reopening guidelines allows fewer restrictions than Phase 1, which began July 6.

All current high school sports activities remain voluntary, with athletes allowed a maximum of 15 hours of practice and conditioning workouts per week on campus.

A major difference from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of reopening allows physical contact, on a limited basis, for football, with helmets and shoulder pads allowed.

Free weight exercises requiring a spotter also can be conducted, with locker rooms or meeting rooms utilized at 50 percent capacity.

Monday, Aug. 3, still stands as the official IHSAA start date for practice for football, boys and girls soccer, volleyball, boys tennis and unified flag football.

Girls golf practice opens the IHSAA 2020-21 sports calendar Friday, July 31, with first matches allowed Monday, Aug. 3.

At last word, 10 states have pushed back the start of high school sports, including Arizona, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

New Jersey has set Oct. 2 as the start date for high school football, while New Mexico has switched football to the spring. Virginia, which already has nixed football in the fall, also is considering a switch to spring.

The other states listed have delayed the start of the season by at least 1-2 weeks.

Decisions to play sports in Indiana will likely be made by local school districts, with input from health officials, rather than a statewide mandate from the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

It is possible for sports to continue per IHSAA rules, if OKd by school districts, even if there is virtual learning instead of in-person classes.

If Indiana's high school sports reentry continues without a hitch, Phase 3 of the plan goes into effect on Aug. 15, allowing for all fall sports competition to resume.

The Dearborn County Register & Journal Press

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