High school football kicks off in Southwest Florida as COVID-19 cases rise amongst kids

A new high school football season is officially kicking off in Southwest Florida as COVID-19 cases increase in our schools. There aren’t any restrictions in Lee and Collier Counties, for now.

On Friday evening, teams warmed up and got ready for kickoff at the Preseason Jamboree. Weather permitting, three teams: Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Ida Baker will play three 30-minute games.

The preseason tradition remains as we start another football season during the pandemic. Across Southwest Florida, high school teams are lining up. Unlike last season, there will be no on-field restrictions or restrictions in the stands.

Yet, COVID-19 is still causing challenges. Riverdale High School canceled its game versus Bishop Verot because of the virus. In a statement from the team’s Head Coach James Delgado, he says it was “simply the right thing to do.”

Many parents wonder why districts in SWFL are continuing to play as cases among kids are at an all-time high. Chad Oliver is the Executive Director of Communications for Collier County Schools. “We’re at a different phase of the pandemic. Certainly, the widespread availability of a vaccine offers the opportunity for spectators to return to our venues,” said Oliver.

In Collier County last year, only parents could watch the games. In Lee County, the capacity was capped at 25%.

As far as masks are concerned, they are encouraged in Lee County and optional in Charlotte and Collier Counties. “This is where we are right now. Recognizing its fluid and this is the guidance we’re starting the fall sports season with and if the situation in our community or our schools changes the, of course, the guidance might shift to go along with that,” said Oliver.

He believes that having fans back is what makes Friday nights special. “When you catch the winning touchdown pass on a Friday night when you take the field to perform as a part of the band there’s excitement. Those are memories those are bonds that are formed that lasts generations,” he said.

The School District of Lee County did not want to speak with WINK News about COVID-19’s impact on high school football.

Reporter:Zach Oliveri
Writer:Drew Hill
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