The Florida High School Activities Association is scheduled to host the boys state basketball tournament in Lakeland the state wrestling tournament in Kissimee this week after the first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the state.
With two state championship events this week, the Florida High School Athletic Association is proceeding with plans to host both events after first two cases of coronavirus in Florida were confirmed on Monday.
The FHSAA is hosting the boys basketball state tournament Wednesday-Saturday at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland and the state wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimee.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency as a result of the cases.
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"We have been closely monitoring updates from the Florida Department of Health," FHSAA Associate Executive Director Jamie Rohrer said via e-mail. "All FHSAA events for this week will continue as originally scheduled. However, we will continue to closely monitor Florida Health’s updates and notices and take swift action if deemed necessary by the Florida Department of Health."
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The first two confirmed cases of the illness in Florida were a 20-year-old woman in Hillsborough County and a man in his 60s in Manatee County. The woman recently returned from a trip to Italy, where there has been an outbreak, but Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said health officials are still unsure how the man contracted the illness, which is technically known as COVID-19.
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Hillsborough County is directly west of Lakeland, which is in Polk County, while Manatee County is directly southeast. Kissimmee, which is located in Osceola County, is directly east of Polk County.
Paxton High is scheduled to face Hawthorne in the Class 1A boys semifinals at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Vernon High is scheduled to face Hilliard in the 1A semifinals at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
An anonymous e-mail to The Daily News from a Paxton High parent expressed concerns over traveling to the tournament.
“I wonder if it's a wise choice to send our students into a potentially very dangerous situation,” the e-mail read. “Shouldn't we exhibit some caution here?”
As of Tuesday afternoon, all six coronavirus deaths in the United States were contained to Washington state, with more than 100 confirmed cases of the disease across the country. Twelve states have confirmed cases of coronavirus: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, New York, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.
"Any time something like that is mentioned, you're gonna think about it and take it seriously. But we're gonna keep our team with us and not be places we don’t need to be ... we're gonna take care of (the players)," said Paxton head coach Jeff Bradley. "God’s not just in charge of our basketball team but of us as people. We’re gonna put that in his hands and come back safely."
Fort Walton Beach High is sending five wrestlers to the state tournament, while Niceville is sending two wrestlers.
Niceville High School athletic director Grant Thompson declined to comment on Tuesday and referred all inquiries to the Okaloosa County School District.
OCSD officials met Tuesday with health officials and emergency management services to address possible issues that could arise from the spread of coronavirus.
“We have been in coordination with the Department of Health and are also monitoring information from other state agencies,” said OCSD Assistant Superintendent for Operational Services Steve Horton. “As of this time, we have not restricted travel by our athletic teams to other areas of the state.
“The situation is obviously fluid, and we will continue to monitor it closely. As always, we encourage all of our students and staff to exercise care in the prevention of respiratory illnesses, whether at school or in the community.”