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Fall sports underway against backdrop of rising infections

August 17, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Practice for fall sports is getting underway this week at Maine high schools against a backdrop of growing coronavirus infections.

Football players in particular are fired up. Last year, Maine was one of just four states that did not have a tackle football season in response to the pandemic. Instead, teams were allowed to play flag football.

The Bucksport High football team kicked off a short practice as soon as they were allowed to do so — at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The team stretched and ran through two-minute offense drills for a half hour under the lights, Coach Joel Sankey said. “It was kind of exciting for the kids. There were a lot of parents there,” the coach said.

The increase in infections has produced some uncertainty about fall sports.

The Maine Principals’ Association has urged schools to follow U.S. and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

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Those include wearing of face masks while inside public places, but make no such recommendation for outdoor activities.

In other pandemic-related news: ___

THE NUMBERS

Another 375 infections and three deaths have been reported in Maine since Saturday, health officials said Tuesday.

Infections continue to grow with the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 80 new cases per day on Aug. 1 to 174 new cases per day on Aug. 15.

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UMAINE SYSTEM

More than 14,600 University of Maine System students and staff members have verified their vaccination status as of Tuesday, but that’s only about 42% of the 35,000 students and employees that make up the population.

UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy said 400 to 500 new vaccination verifications are coming in per day and he he’s optimistic the system will get to 100% compliance.

“We’re very happy with where we stand at the moment,” he said. “We’re getting to where we want to be and where we need to be.”

Students who are not vaccinated may still come to campus but will have to participate in asymptomatic testing and other safety practices.