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Valley soccer tournament still scheduled to begin despite COVID-19 worries

The Maricopa County Health Department and ASU Researchers warned just last week that COVID-19 cases have been linked to youth sporting events.

PHOENIX — Hundreds of youth sports soccer teams will be competing against each other this weekend in the Valley amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in Arizona.

In a memo obtained by 12 News, the City of Phoenix outlines their approval of a soccer tournament at Rose Mofford Sports Complex and Reach 11 Sports Complex.

According to the memo, the Desert Cup Soccer Tournament is set to have 46 teams coming from out of state to play. The memo said 200 teams will be playing at Rose Mofford and 300 will be playing at Reach 11 from Friday through Sunday.

The Maricopa County Health Department and ASU Researchers warned just last week that COVID-19 cases have been linked to youth sporting events.

“We have several outbreaks that we have identified associated with club sports and club sporting events,” Marcy Flanagan, Maricopa County Public Health Executive Director said.

Out of that concern, Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo is calling for cities and towns in the county to put a 30-day hold on these events.

"Let’s not put people’s lives in danger,” Gallardo said. “That’s unfortunately what we’re doing come this weekend when we allow tournaments like this to continue.”

The memo outlines precautions the teams and organizations need to take, including masks for spectators, officials and coaches, physical distancing and more.

In addition to those restrictions, the City of Phoenix said in a statement that parks and recreation staff, rangers and police will be monitoring to make sure safety protocols are being followed.

But Gallardo said that’s not enough.

“It’s better to be safe and just postpone these events seriously we’re talking a soccer game. Why can’t we have that soccer game held in January?” Gallardo said.

Gallardo said he’s asked the county attorney to look into if the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors can act, but prefers the cities address it themselves.

In response to 12 News’ questions about the tournament this weekend, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego released the following statement:

“I am gravely concerned about COVID-19 in our community. With infections now at the second-highest daily number ever, it is clear the status quo is not working. We all need to be aware that the public health situation has changed dramatically in the last few weeks.

At the next council meeting on December 2, we will discuss and act on urgent needs related to COVID-19 including more funds for testing, increased cleaning of city facilities, seeking continued advice from medical and public health experts, as well as policies regarding the use of sports fields.

In the meantime, it is critically important that teams participating in this weekend’s tournaments follow the extensive restrictions the city has put in place.”

12 News did contact the tournament but did not hear back. On the tournament’s website, it lists other fields in Scottsdale, Mesa and Gilbert that will host games.
City of Mesa Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Recreation Administrator, Aimee Manis, released this statement on the use of Mesa fields:

“The tournament you mention is renting fields from the City of Mesa this weekend. The City of Mesa requires all facility rentals to follow all COVID-19 guidelines and requirements put forth by the CDC, National Sport Governing bodies as well as AZ Department of Health in order to hold reduced capacity events. Should those official requirements change, Mesa will follow suit.”

The City of Scottsdale and the Town of Gilbert have not yet responded to requests for comment on the use of their fields.

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