Schools in 12 of Maine’s 16 counties can begin their winter sports season on Monday with full practices while the other four will have to wait until the coronavirus becomes more contained there, the Maine Principals Association said.
Schools in Cumberland, York, Androscoggin and Oxford counties cannot be involved in team activities. Coaches can only engage with their players virtually. Those schools are coded “yellow” under a classification system developed by state health officials. The coding is based on the likelihood of community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The news comes as the state grapples with a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases, setting record highs during the holiday season. On Friday, the state reported the deaths of four more Mainers and 700 new coronavirus cases.
Penobscot and Aroostook counties are currently designated as green, the lowest risk. Color coding updates are released every two weeks by the state. The most recent one was released on Thursday.
Schools within the green designation have been able to have small pods of athletes do skill-development and conditioning activities while maintaining safety protocols like social distancing and face coverings.
Team activities were supposed to begin on Dec. 14 but the COVID-19 surge resulted in the date being pushed back until Jan. 4.
Games can begin as early as Jan. 11 but teams will be restricted to playing teams within their own geography areas and there won’t be regional or state championship tournaments. However, schools can have post-season play with teams within a close proximity.
Mike Burnham, the executive director of the Maine Principals Association, said on Friday that the MPA will meet early in January to evaluate the situation.