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— JEREMY MUCK

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The Arkansas Activities Association announced Tuesday that it still plans to play its fall sports season on time.

The AAA said in a statement posted on its Twitter account that preparations for fall sports are contingent upon compliance with all directives as issued by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office and the Arkansas Department of Health.

AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor discussed plans for a return to high school sports with the National Federation of State High School Associations, the AAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, AAA Coach’s and Official’s Advisory committees, along with other affiliated activity committees. Plans are being discussed to comply with all directives and safely return to competition, the AAA said.

“They’re all planning on playing,” Taylor said. “Not one state has committed to not starting on time. We all want to stick to the schedule.”

The statement also said that all states contiguous to Arkansas have indicated that they are making similar plans to being as scheduled this fall. Also, plans on being discussed at all levels in regard to adjustments to the calendar if necessary.

Schools in Arkansas were closed March 13 and later shut down for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year April 6 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The AAA implemented an athletic dead period, which ran from March 15-May 31. Since June 1, high school athletic programs have able to resume in-person workouts, but football and volleyball are not allowed to hold contact practices.

Fall sports in Arkansas include football, volleyball, golf, tennis and cross country. Golf season is scheduled to begin Aug. 3, while the first day of tennis competition is Aug. 10. The football and volleyball seasons are scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 24-29, and cross country can begin its season Aug. 31.

School is scheduled to begin Aug. 13. Several school districts throughout the state are offering virtual learning programs to their students if they don’t wish to attend classes in person.

Hutchinson announced Tuesday that there are 259 new cases of covid-19, raising Arkansas’ total to 24,512. There are nine additional deaths, making the death total 301. Also, hospitalizations are at 369, with an increase of 32, the largest one-day increase in the state.

Taylor said he, Hutchinson and the health department talk two to three times a week. He said Hutchinson wants sports to stay on schedule. The AAA’s top leader expressed confidence, but is also aware of what could take place over the next couple of weeks with the virus.

“We’re planning to play this fall,” Taylor said. “That’s what we want to do, until we can’t.”

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