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North Carolina health officials in panic mode after half of state’s middle and high school COVID-19 clusters are traced back to sports


Health officials in North Carolina are displaying great concern after new stats revealed by the state’s department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) show that nearly half of the COVID-19 clusters in middle and high schools can be tied to sports teams.

“Clusters among school sports teams accounted for 45% of all clusters in North Carolina middle and high schools, despite most school sports activities not beginning until August as schools began the fall semester,” the NCDHHS said in a statement.

Officials defined a cluster as a minimum of five cases before reporting that they have been able to identify 42 athletics-related clusters.

Between July 1 and Sept. 2, 340 cases among the 42 clusters were reported in the state’s public, charter and private middle and high schools.

The health department used these new statistics to also encourage parents of children under 17 to get them vaccinated. Kids aged 17 and younger made up 31% of North Carolina’s new COVID-19 cases, according to CNN.

“We need everyone, including our student athletes and their coaches, to increase layers of prevention to fight this more contagious Delta variant: Don’t wait to vaccinate and urge others to do the same,” NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer and State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson. “Tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are the best tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Student athletes who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after a close contact with someone with COVID-19.”

The health department already recommended that face masks be worn in indoor settings, and have asked sports programs to “practice social distancing when possible, disinfect equipment frequently, and avoid sharing water bottles.”

“Teams should also consider working out, including weight training, in groups or pods to limit exposure should someone become sick,” according to the NCDHHS. “Sports in which participants have frequent and prolonged contact, such as basketball, football, cheerleading, wrestling and others, are higher risk.”

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