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Clarksville High School has shut down its athletic program until further notice after two football players tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Johnson County school released a statement late Wednesday night. In it, Clarksville said the two football players, who were not named because of privacy laws, also play on a baseball team that includes several Clarksville basketball players.

Clarksville is the fifth known football program in the state to shut down workouts because of covid-19. Jonesboro had a player test positive in June, while Lake Hamilton and Mountain Pine each had an athlete in an unknown sport who tested positive. Carlisle’s athletic program was shut down after an athlete was exposed to the coronavirus.

The Arkansas Department of Health is currently working with Clarksville on tests and contact tracing to see where the players were exposed to the virus.

Clarksville Athletic Director Michael Banning told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday the baseball team that the football players were playing for is a summer league team not affiliated with the school.

The two football players tested positive for covid-19 Tuesday, Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins said. School administrators told the school's nurse, who then called the Arkansas Department of Health on Wednesday.

Athletic workouts were shut down indefinitely Thursday, Hopkins said. Football players and coaches started being tested Thursday and are currently quarantining.

"We're going to work with the department of health and figure out how big of a course this will take," Hopkins said.

Hopkins said the school is working with the health department's office in Clarksville and with a local doctor on the process.

Banning said three sports -- football, basketball and volleyball -- along with cheerleading, were holding workouts on campus. The tennis team was scheduled to begin workouts next week, while golf is on hold as the school is looking for a new golf coach, Banning said.

With having players test positive and playing multiple sports, Banning said he's concerned not only about cases in Clarksville, but across the state and the country. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday that the state had 806 new covid-19 cases and 36 hospitalizations, and there were 4 additional deaths. Arkansas has reached 26,052 cases and 309 people have died from the virus in the state.

"You may have a few cases and how does that spread?" Banning said. "Did we ride in a truck together? Did someone spend the night with someone else? If one person gets it, then you worry about if it spreads to their sister, who may be a cheerleader and also plays volleyball.

"We're trying to do the right thing."

The football team has not been able to do contact drills because of the sport being in Phase 1 of the state's guidelines of returning to play, which were announced May 21. Schools across the state were allowed to hold in-person workouts beginning June 1. Team sports are still in Phase 1 because of the number of cases in Arkansas.

Clarksville football Coach Khris Buckner said the Panthers have 75 players in the program. While joking that workouts have been like track and field meets because of the guidelines, Buckner said that the Panthers not being able to work out for now is not an ideal situation.

"It really stinks," Buckner said. "We tried to take every precaution."

Buckner added that he, along with other coaches and players who were at Clarksville's football practices in the past week, can't attend the school's graduation ceremony tonight, even if they test negative for the virus.

The news hit home for Buckner as his son Nicholas is graduating. Graduation ceremonies were postponed from May after covid-19 forced the end of the 2019-20 school year on April 6.

The Arkansas Activities Association announced Tuesday that it is planning to have sports being played this fall, but left open the possibility of changing the schedule if needed. Hutchinson, along with Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key, announced that the start of school date in the state has moved from Aug. 13 to the week of Aug. 24, with classes resuming no later than Aug. 26. The first week of the high school football season is scheduled for the week of Aug. 24-29.

CORRECTION: Carlisle’s athletic program was shut down after an athlete was exposed to the coronavirus. An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the athlete’s status.


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