WIAA issues new guidelines based on case count threshold from governor's office and DOH

By: 
Taylor Newquist
Sports Editor

The governor’s office and Washington State Department of Health issued new guidelines for returning to high school sports and education-based activities last week, using COVID-19 cases per 100,000 as a by-county benchmark.

“These revised guidelines give greater flexibility to school administrators to offer education-based athletics and meet the demand of their students and communities,” read the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association press release.

The new guidelines replace the ones tied to phases in the governor’s Safe Start Plan with high, moderate and low positivity categories based on the number of positive COVID-19 cases in each county from the previous two weeks.

Counties with greater than 75 cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days are in the high positivity category, which Stevens County is currently in with 105 cases per 100,000 in the past two weeks. Pend Oreille County would also be in this category.

Under the high positivity guidelines:
• Team practices and/or training can resume for low, medium, and high-risk sports if players are limited to groups of six in separate parts of the field/court and separated by a buffer zone. Brief, close contact (e.g. 3-on-3 drills) is permitted. It is preferable for the groups of six to be stable over time. Attendance rosters should include group contact information. Each league, organization, or club must publish and follow a “return to play” safety plan. Any practice or training activities that can be done outdoors should be done outdoors.
• Scrimmage, intra-team competitions, and league games or competition allowed for low-risk sports, but are discouraged if the school is not conducting some in-person learning.
• No tournaments allowed.
• No spectators allowed except for one parent/guardian/caregiver for each student-participant in uniform. Spectators must maintain a physical distance of at least six (6) feet between each person.

The moderate positivity category is for counties in the 25-75 cases per 100,000 range. Those are:

• Scrimmage, intra-team competitions, and league games allowed for both low and moderate-risk sporting activities. Scrimmage, intra-team competitions allowed for high-risk sporting activities.
• No tournaments allowed.
• No spectators allowed except for one adult parent/guardian/caregiver for each student-participant in uniform. Spectators must maintain physical distance of at least six (6) feet between each person.

Lastly the low positivity category is for counties with less than 25 cases per 100,000, which Ferry County is currently in. Those are:
• Scrimmage, intra-team competitions, and league games allowed for low, moderate, and high-risk sporting activities.
• Tournaments allowed.
• Spectators to follow gathering size limit of the Safe Start Plan.

Sports remain mostly categorized into the same three tiers of low to high risk, with basketball moved form moderate to high risk. A number of additional rules and guidelines have been issued for each sport.

As for now, the WIAA seasons are scheduled to begin on Dec. 28, with traditional winter sports of basketball, wrestling, bowling, swim/dive and gymnastics. For smaller schools­—including all of those in the Tri-County area—that means both Season 2 sports of basketball and wrestling will be categorized as high risk. Case counts in the area will to drop below 25 per 100,000 for any games to be played this winter throughout the Northeast area.

For more information and up to date news as it is published visit wiaa.com/covid.

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