PHOENIX — More than 1,000 high school games across Arizona have been canceled due to COVID this week, according to the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
State Commissioner of Officials Brian Gessner said within the last week, they've had 1,500 games canceled with more than 1,000 of those directly related to COVID. Those include basketball, wrestling, and soccer games at the freshman, JV, and varsity levels.
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Hamilton High School has had four basketball and soccer games canceled due to COVID, but athletic director Brett Palmer said they've been lucky.
“While we have been hit with it, it’s been very minimal," said Palmer.
Still, he said it's frustrating any time kids can't play.
"They've been doing everything they've been doing and then come to find out, something out of their control, now they have to lose a game or miss a game," said Palmer. “I get disappointed because students miss out on the chance to play. They’ve all been working very hard.”
Gessner shares that frustration.
"A lot of kids are going to school so they can participate in these things. This is the foundation, their friendships their relationships," he said.
Gessner said games have been canceled for illness and exposure.
“Typically, if it’s three or more players contracted COVID, they shut down the program. And then they have to follow protocols.”
Gessner said protocols vary depending on schools and districts, and they're working to reschedule as many of those games as possible.
"We only have so many dates till the end of the season, so we can only put so many games in those dates so a lot of these games even though we would like to reschedule them, aren’t going to be able to be played.”
Playoffs are in late February, and the spring season starts mid-February.
Palmer hopes his teams can finish the season and compete in the playoffs.
"Just being overly cautious and reminding her kids and her coaches to be diligent when it comes to washing of hands and keeping distance and mask up," he said.
Gessner said refs are also calling out sick in record numbers as well. He said they lost 27 refs to COVID last year.
And while cases are less severe this time, he said it's about perspective. At the end of the day, he wants everyone to be safe.