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Tackle football competition is back: Carroll County to lift youth rec sports restrictions

Competition in three youth recreational sports that have been considered high risk for spreading COVID-19 will be allowed to resume after a nearly one-month hiatus in Carroll County.

The county government announced in a news release Wednesday night that youth tackle football, basketball and wrestling will be permitted to return to competition, effective 5 p.m. Friday.

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Previously, the Carroll County departments of health and recreation and parks announced Aug. 6 that competition in these three youth rec sports would be prohibited due to concerns relating to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Maryland preparing to enter Stage Three of its coronavirus recovery plan, a move announced Tuesday, was the catalyst for Carroll County Recreation and Parks to make the change, along with consulting with county Health Officer Ed Singer, according to Wednesday’s release.

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Commissioner Stephen Wantz, president of the Board of County Commissioners, said Wednesday that the change is consistent with the county’s commitment to following Gov. Larry Hogan’s path through the pandemic.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have always followed the path as set forth by the governor and his team, including the health experts,” Wantz said in a text message. “As a result of his announcement yesterday, entering Stage 3 we continue to do that. This announcement is consistent with this path of staying the course and not infusing politics into the decisions. We are at this juncture only because our citizens have remained diligent and we thank them for that and remind everyone that even with the changes we must not become complacent.”

Players, coaches and parents rallied in Westminster and Annapolis over the past week, pushing for sports to continue normally. The Carroll County commissioners received 72 hand-written letters from young athletes. And some parents called into the virtual commissioners meeting Aug. 20 to voice their disagreement.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, according to the release, Carroll County Recreation and Parks will:

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  • Remove restrictions that prohibited competition and full contact in tackle football, wrestling and basketball.
  • Eliminate the current 30-mile travel limit, but continue to encourage restraint with regard to travel for leagues and tournaments.
  • Continue to emphasize best practices including regular wellness checks, social distancing and regular disinfecting of equipment.

The release included a reminder that state orders on face coverings are still in effect.

The Aug. 6 decision was announced jointly by Jeff Degitz, head of recreation and parks, and Singer. Degitz previously said the county took feedback from local recreation councils and parents, consulted with the Maryland Department of Health, and considered what other counties were doing. During this time, practices in the three sports were allowed to continue and the decision did not affect independent travel teams.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, suggested Monday that he was considering making a motion at the commissioners’ upcoming meeting to reinstate competition in the three sports.

The commissioners meet at 9 a.m. Thursday. The meeting can be viewed through the county website.

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