FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s high school athletic board voted Friday to begin practices for football and other fall sports Aug. 24 and games less than two weeks later, pushing aside the advice of its medical experts who said competition should not resume for at least six weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Florida High School Athletic Association board voted 11-5 to begin practices this month. It’s a plan endorsed by its executive director, George Tomyn, although it could mean the state’s largest counties — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — plus some others with major outbreaks might choose to delay their seasons and forgo participation in the statewide playoffs.

Football games and other competitions could start Sept. 4, but the 67 countywide school districts plus private schools will have until Sept. 18 to resume if they want to participate in the state playoffs. If a district decides to delay its season and not participate in the playoffs, its teams will be allowed to extend their regular seasons. Other fall sports affected are swimming and diving, cross country, golf, bowling and girl’s volleyball.

Carlos Ochoa, a Miami-Dade board member who introduced the adopted measure, said it gives districts and schools the most flexibility. Gov. Ron DeSantis has been calling for schools to reopen, including the resumption of sports.

“Not everyone’s going to be the same with this situation, because of what’s in front of us,” Ochoa said at the board’s Gainesville meeting. “The reality is that the unknown has been there, it’s here today and we don’t know how long it will continue to be a part of us.”

The association’s vote pushed aside the recommendation of its medical advisory board, which called for not resuming sports until Sept. 28 at the earliest. No county meets all the criteria the board recommended for the resumption of sports. Those include, for two weeks, having both a decrease in reported daily cases and a positivity rate on tests of below 5%.

“Until this virus is given the respect it deserves to quiet down, introducing sports adds fuel to the fire,” said Dr. Jennifer Maynard, head of the medical advisory committee.

The board’s decision came shortly after Florida announced 229 new confirmed coronavirus deaths, the sixth time in two weeks it has broken the 200 barrier. That brings Florida’s death total to 9,276 since March. Over the past week, Florida has averaged 175 reported coronavirus deaths per day — only Texas has a higher average, 212, but it also has 50% more residents.

The state reported more than 6,200 new confirmed cases, pushing the total over 563,000. The positivity rate for testing remains at 12.8% over the last week.

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COVID-19 has become Florida’s leading cause of death, averaging more than 140 reported fatalities per day during the past month. By comparison, the state health department says the former leading causes of death, cancer and heart disease, each average about 125 fatalities per day.

Meanwhile, DeSantis led a panel discussion in Sarasota with his wife, Casey, on the affect school closures have…

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