The return-to-play date for prep athletes in Washington state has been pushed back.
On Nov. 17, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Executive Board voted to amend the season schedule for the 2020-21 school year, delaying the start of Season 2 until Feb. 1 and shortening each of the three remaining seasons to seven weeks.
Season 2, which includes basketball, wrestling, girls bowling, gymnastics and boys swim and dive, was originally scheduled to begin Dec. 28.
“The decision comes in light of surging COVID-19 cases around the state, putting in jeopardy the ability to begin WIAA Season 2,” the WIAA said in a release.
Season 2 is now set to end with a culminating regional event on March 20.
Season 3, featuring football, volleyball, girls soccer, girls swim and dive, slowpitch softball and alternative seasons for golf and tennis, begins March 15, with football practices starting March 8. The season ends May 1.
Season 4 — baseball, fastpitch softball, golf, tennis, boys soccer and track and field — starts April 26 and ends June 12.
The executive board also voted to extend the the WIAA’s open coaching window to Jan. 23.
The announcement comes just days after King County reported 5,913 positive cases and 16 deaths from Nov. 1 through Nov. 15. (See the latest numbers at the King County COVID-19 dashboard.)
If those numbers don’t improve over the next two months, a return to play will be even further away for many student-athletes.
Guidance set forth by the Governor’s Office and the Washington State Department of Health breaks up individual sports in to low-, moderate- and high-risk categories. It also earmarks individual counties with a three-tier system based on the COVID-19 benchmark statistics of cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period and percentage of positive tests during a week.
Currently, King County falls into the high-risk category. Only sports in the low- or moderate-risk categories can begin competition when a county is considered high risk. In Season 2, girls bowling, gymnastics and boys swim and dive are all considered low- or moderate-risk sports. Basketball and wrestling fall under high risk.
High-risk sports can begin competition when their county hits the low-risk threshold, less than 25 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of under 5%.
Local student-athletes also have to rely on a dip in benchmark coronavirus numbers in nearby counties.
On Nov. 3, the WIAA announced plans to group its nine districts into three regions. District 2 encompasses most of King County and includes Snohomish County schools Granite Falls and Sultan, as well as a few other outliers, to form Region A.
There are three checkpoints that need to be passed for a season to commence as planned.
The first checkpoint is four weeks before an upcoming season. If a sport, by classification, is below the 50% threshold of participating schools, then plans will be developed for moving the season.
The second checkpoint is one week later. If a sport, by classification, is above the 50% threshold, then it will move forward as planned. If a sport is below the 50% threshold, then the plans for moving the season will be implemented.
The third and final checkpoint is two weeks before the start of a season. If a sport, by classification, has met the eligibility requirements to commence, then the region will decide whether the season moves forward as scheduled.