Poplar Bluff teams to start limited workouts Monday

Starting Monday, Poplar Bluff athletes and coaches will be able to meet on campus as part of summer activities under guidelines set by the district to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
DAR FILE/Brian Rosener

After 71 days, the Poplar Bluff Mules are getting back to work.

Starting Monday, athletes and coaches will be able to meet on campus as part of summer activities under guidelines set by the district to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re going to cope with it the best we can,” Mules football coach David Sievers said. “Football is hard to social distance at.

“We feel lucky that we’re getting them when we do.”

All activities will be outside and in groups of no more than 10 following social distancing and good hygiene practices.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and staff is our No. 1 priority as we prepare for the 2020-21 sports seasons,” wrote Kent Keith, Poplar Bluff Athletic Director in an email to parents, athletes and coaches this week.

The guidelines will be in place for June and re-evaluated at the end of the month, but could be updated at any time, Keith said, calling it a “fluid situation.”

“We don’t want anybody to get sick or bring sickness home to their families,” Keith said. “We all talked about if one kid brought it home to a parent, none of us could live with that.”

Poplar Bluff school buildings will remained closed, including the weight rooms, and no scrimmages that feature physical contact with other athletes will be allowed. Any equipment or areas used by athletes will be disinfected and there will be no watering stations or water fountains available for use.

Any student or staff member that shows any signs of illness, will not be allowed to work out, including if any “in-house family members” also show signs of illness.

Students and staff members that want to wear cloth face coverings will be encouraged to do it and all summer activities are voluntary and are not required, Keith said in an email.

Poplar Bluff started spring break on March 16 and suspended athletic practices that week as spring sports teams were preparing to start the season.

After the spring championships were canceled, the MSHSAA Board of Directors voted on April 17 to make the summer dead period and limits on contact optional, but any activities first need to be approved by local, state and national health officials.

During the state’s “Phase 1 recovery plan” people must adhere to social distancing requirements, including maintaining 6 feet of space between individuals. On Thursday, Gov. Mike Parson announced an extension of Phase 1 through June 15.

Missouri saw its largest one-day total of new cases at 368 on May 4, the same day Parson’s stay-at-home order was lifted. At that time, the seven-day average of new cases was 226. After falling to 138 on May 15, the seven-day average for the state was back up to 190 by Thursday.

The state reported 31 deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total to 738 over the last 72 days.

Locally, Butler County has had seven new positive tests for the virus in the last week, including four Friday.

“We do feel fortunate in some ways to be able to do what we’re able to do,” Keith said. “At least we’re going to be able to do some agility and skill work outside.”

While fall sports like cross country and tennis can easily practice social distancing, others can be more difficult.

Linemen, for example, will not be able to work on blocking. Sievers said he and his coaching staff have been working on a plan to “do what football we can.”

Baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and the trap team also submitted plans to Keith on how they will follow the guidelines.

One of the biggest changes to the summer routine will be not having the weight room open.

“We really couldn’t justify opening the weight room up when we couldn’t open up for summer school until July,” Keith said.

Poplar Bluff’s weight room, located on the second level of the new gym, is large enough for a group of 10 to adequately distance themselves while working out. However, the equipment would need to be disinfected after each use and the windows do not open to allow for fresh air to circulate.

While local gyms are open to the public, Keith said those places of business are better equipped in terms of cleaning supplies and staff on hand.

“We’re going to error on the side of caution on that,” Keith said of opening the weight room.

Team and youth camps will also be on hold with the possibility of being held in July, depending on the situation, Keith said.

“The thing that we don’t want to see happen is things shutting down again,” Sievers said. “It might be for good this time as far as the season is concerned.”

The first official practice of the fall sports season is scheduled for Aug. 9 while games can begin Aug. 23.

Keith said he thinks there will be sports this fall, but adds, “I don’t know what it’s going to look like.”

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