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The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has formed a COVID-19 Medical Advisory Task Force to plan for the potential return of high school sports in the fall, NJSIAA Executive Committee President Mary Liz Ivins said in a press release Friday.

Ivins will serve as the chair of the task force, which will work with NJSIAA member schools, the NJ Department of Health, the NJ Department of Education and the recently-formed National Federation of High Schools Sports Medical Advisory Committee to work toward a hopeful return to sports this fall.

"As president of the NJSIAA, my primary goal is the safe return to interscholastic play as soon as possible," Ivins said. "We remain optimistic that school activities, including sports, will return in the fall - for students' physical and mental well-being."

The task force will aim "to provide the association with the best, most up to date guidance to allow New Jersey high school student-athletes to return to athletics as soon as safely possible".

"We’re optimistic that these steps will help our kids get back to school and back on the playing field in the fall."

The committee will include Kathy Whalen from the NJ Department of Education, Dr. Lakota Kruse, medical director, NJ Department of Health-Division of Family Health Services, and members of our medical advisory committee, including Dr. Jack Kripsak, chair of the NJSIAA Medical Advisory Committee, Dr. Damion Martins, team physician and director of Internal Medicine to the New York Jets and a member of the NFL COVID Taskforce, and Dr. Rob Franks, a team physician for USA wrestling and team consultant to the Philadelphia Phillies. NJSIAA assistant director Tony Maselli will serve as the NJSIAA liaison.

The viability of New Jersey high school sports returning in September is contingent upon several factors and will be ultimately decided by the state government. The NJSIAA said continuing to follow guidelines such as social distancing and wearing masks in required instances remains vital.

"The fewer cases there are today, the greater the likelihood we will play in the fall," Ivins said."

Earlier this week, the NFHS announced guidelines for returning to play, which included a three-phase model that grouped sports into low-risk, moderate-risk and high-risk groups. Football is in the high-risk group while boys and girls soccer are in the moderate-risk group. Sports like golf, swimming and certain track and field events have been deemed low-risk.

New Jersey is slowly beginning to reopen with restrictions being eased in phases, although social distancing measures are still strictly being enforced. On Friday, Governor Phil Murphy's latest executive order lifted the number of people allowed in an outdoor gathering from 10 to 25 people. While the number of cases throughout New Jersey, which has the second-most cases of COVID-19 in the United States, continues to trend downward, medical experts have warned that additional outbreaks could occur is safety measures are not followed.

"Many obstacles remain," Ivins said. "Hard work, patience and flexibility will be required, and at times some may feel deflated. But I’m confident that together, we will help get our kids safely back in the game."



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