With COVID-19 cases in Polk County rising, all athletics practices and competitions at Polk public schools are being suspended from today until Jan. 4, the school district announced this morning.

More than 50 student athletes participating in winter sports have tested positive in recent weeks despite the school district’s safeguards, according to a Polk Public Schools news release.

“Right now, we have cases among cheerleaders, basketball and soccer players, wrestlers and weight lifters,” said Scott Sjoblom, COVID response section chief with the Florida Department of Health’s Polk County office.

“It’s important to remember that our schools are a reflection of what’s happening in the community. Case counts are rising throughout our county. This is a time to be extra vigilant. Suspending athletics is one more measure we can take to protect one another from this virus.”

The decision was made in conjunction with the Department of Health, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said.

The school district “will monitor the number of cases in our community throughout the winter break and will keep our community updated,” said Dan Talbot, senior coordinator of athletics.  “We plan to restart our athletics programs on Jan. 4. We are pausing athletics to do our part in slowing the spread.”

Around 1,660 student athletes from 14 high schools participate in winter sports: boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, wrestling, cheerleading, and girls weightlifting, Talbot said.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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