Archive for the ‘coronavirus updates’ Category

Traditional fall high school sports such as football may be the first to return to play. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Everything changes. Again.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board voted Wednesday to redo its planned 2020-2021 school athletic schedule, moving traditional fall sports back in front.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no prep games in the state played in nearly 11 months, in any sport, and the plans to return to play have been constantly-changing.

Up until Wednesday night, winter sports such as basketball were set to possibly be the first ones back.

But, after new guidelines were set in place earlier this week by Governor Jay Inslee and the state Health Department, the WIAA opted to flip things.


“The change in guidelines allow all traditional fall sports to be played while we still do not have a clear pathway to the high-risk indoor activities of basketball, competitive cheer and dance, and wrestling,” said WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman.

“With that in mind, moving fall sports to Season 1 will hopefully provide the most opportunities to participate.”

The new plan is for fall sports to begin practices Feb. 1, with a shortened season ending March 20.

Season 2 (March 15-May 1) and Season 3 (April 26-June 12) remain on the schedule as before, though it’s unclear if traditional winter sports will follow, or whether spring sports will leapfrog them.

Some more clarification is expected after the WIAA Executive Board meets Jan. 19.

“We are hoping to receive more details that were not included in the Governor’s announcement on Tuesday, particularly surrounding indoor sports and activities,” Hoffman said.

“As we continue to gather more information and evaluate the new metrics, the board will be able to make better decisions about the remainder of the year.”

The move to flip fall sports back in front would seem to indicate the possible return of football, cross country, volleyball, boys tennis, and boys and girls soccer for Coupeville High School.

But, and this is a huge BUT, while the WIAA is providing a “uniform season schedule concluding in regional culminating events, it has granted each league or district around the state the ability to reschedule seasons to best fit their local communities.”

Any decision from the Athletic Directors of the Northwest 2B/1B League will likely have to come soon, but no time frame for a decision has been announced.

Part of that decision hinges on implementation of the new guidelines — Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery — which divides the state into eight regions.

Island County is now linked with Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Counties (but not Snohomish, which includes Darrington, one of Coupeville’s league foes) in the North Region.

There will be two phases in the plan, with all regions beginning in Phase 1 next Monday, Jan. 11.

To move from Phase 1 to Phase 2, a region needs to meet four metrics:

**10-percent decline in COVID-19 case rates over the past two weeks.
**10-percent decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission over the past two weeks.
**ICU occupancy under 90 percent.
**Test positivity less than 10 percent.

If a region is in Phase 2, all outdoor sports, including “high-risk” ones such as football, can play games.

Indoor sports classified as “medium-risk,” such as volleyball, can also play, but “high-risk” indoor sports like basketball can not.

It is currently unknown what a region will have to do to reach an as-yet unknown Phase 3 under the new plan, which would allow “high-risk” indoor sports to play.

It’s also unknown if any fans will be allowed to attend games if fall sports really do start Feb. 1.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise.

In this Age of Coronavirus, just remember, with each 1% of clarification comes another 99% of “I have no freakin’ clue.”

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Izzy Wells snags a rebound during a February game, the last time CHS sports teams played before the pandemic shut things down. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Hold on.

After meeting Tuesday, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board announced it would wait until January 4 to make a decision on whether high school basketball will begin Feb. 1.

The current plan for Covid-delayed prep sports in Washington state is for traditional winter activities to go first, with fall and spring sports following.

Each will have a seven-week season — one week for practice, five for games, and one for a “regional culminating event” in place of a state tourney.

Under that plan, winter sports will run from Feb. 1-March 20, with fall sports March 15-May 1, and spring sports April 26-June 12.

Football will begin practice March 8, as it requires additional practice time.

The biggest issue, however, is whether schools will be eligible to play basketball (or wrestle, swim, bowl, or perform gymnastics — winter sports not offered by CHS) as COVID-19 cases spike nation-wide.

Which is why the WIAA is choosing to wait three weeks to see where things are before making any further decisions.

Under current state guidelines, counties must have fewer than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period to be eligible to play “high-risk” sports such as basketball, wrestling, or football.

No county currently qualifies, with San Juan County being the only one recording less than 100 cases.

Where Coupeville and its Northwest 2B/1B League foes stand:

Friday Harbor — San Juan County — 40.8 cases
Orcas Island — San Juan County — 40.8 cases
Chimacum — Jefferson County — 131.7 cases
Coupeville — Island County — 172.1 cases
Concrete — Skagit County — 301.1 cases
La Conner — Skagit County — 301.1 cases
Mount Vernon Christian — Skagit County — 301.1 cases
Darrington — Snohomish County — 394.7 cases

But, things can change fast, and for multiple reasons.

Governor Jay Inslee released new guidelines Wednesday for in-person instruction in state schools, loosening previous restrictions.

It’s possible there will be a similar reassessment of the sports-specific guidelines, as well.

“The revised recommendations for in-person learning issued by the Governor’s Office, OSPI, and Department of Health show that our state leaders are using all available science and data to drive their decisions,” the WIAA said in a statement Wednesday night.

“While sports and activities were not covered during the announcement, the WIAA is hopeful that guidelines for extracurricular participation will also be revised to align with the data and information that was presented today.”

After Tuesday’s WIAA meeting, Executive Board president Tim Thomsen gave an interview to the Eli Sports Network.

During that discussion, he hit on several key points.

“We know, through all the studies and everything else, that one of the safest places for kids to be is in school,” Thomsen said. “And even safer than that, is in a sports program where it’s even more controlled and a smaller group.”

While saying he’d love it if someone could give him a crystal ball to tell the future, Thomsen urged coaches, athletes, and parents to remain upbeat.

While the WIAA’s hope is for its current schedule to go off perfectly, there are other options on the table as well.

Sports could still be shuffled, with low-risk ones such as cross country moving up. and high-risk ones momentarily stepping back.

Seasons might also be trimmed from seven weeks to six, with the first one starting Feb. 22 instead of Feb. 1.

“That’s about as short as you can make them and make them a viable season,” Thomsen said. “So we realize if we do that, that’s probably the last time we could utilize that option.”

The most dire option, and one the WIAA would like to avoid, is compressing sports into one or two seasons, instead of three, or cancelling some sports outright.

Everything will be done to avoid that if possible, Thomsen said.

There will also be an emphasis on preserving spring sports, as those programs already lost a season when schools originally shut down at the start of the pandemic.

Hovering over everything is the realization there may not be just one answer for the entire state.

If some counties are ready to play before others, they won’t be expected to wait for those lagging behind, with the WIAA pledging to allow schools and leagues to make a lot of their own decisions.

Which means, it’s possible we could see 2B Coupeville play 3A Oak Harbor and 1A South Whidbey if Island County were to improve its COVID case counts before the counties of Wolf league rivals do.

Anything is possible, and anything is on the table.

Barring the arrival of that crystal ball, no one knows nothing, no matter what they tell you.

For his part, Thomsen urges those who want to see prep sports return to approach the Christmas season with a plan in place.

Follow social distancing guidelines, wear masks, and do your part to help your county reduce its case count.

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WhidbeyHealth has completed contract tracing and reports no transmission to other staff or patients after a member of the Surgical Service team tested positive last month for COVID-19.

The original case was reported on September 27, and it was believed the employee contracted the virus outside of work.

After reporting symptoms which developed at work, the team member went into self-quarantine.

At the time, WhidbeyHealth postponed elective surgeries and non-urgent visits to its surgery, obstetrics and orthopedic clinics.

Thursday the hospital issued the following statement:

Repeated testing of providers and staff has been completed.

Everyone has been released from quarantine, and surgical services have returned to normal operations.

This includes elective procedures and related clinical visits.

Everyone who works in the WhidbeyHealth team are deeply grateful for the unanimous concern and support we received from the community.

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NAS Whidbey is laying down the law.

With COVID-19 infections having spiked in Island County the past two weeks, bigwigs at the Island’s largest employer are firmly reminding their subordinates to mask up, maintain social distancing, and wash your grubby lil’ fingers.

Earlier this week, the Island County Health Department released a statement which said:

“There have been 44 new cases of COVID-19 between Sept. 9 and Sept. 25, 2020.

This is a significant increase from case rates in late August and early September.”

Friday afternoon, CDR Tim “Oz” Oswalt, Executive Officer at NAS Whidbey, issued his own follow-up statement:

In the last two weeks, COVID-19 infections across Island County and on NAS Whidbey Island have increased at a greater rate than at any time during the summer.

It is absolutely imperative that everyone follow the proper hygiene protocols on and off base to curtail this spread.

If the trajectory of this spread continues the base will be forced to impose restrictions and close services.

Please help us avoid taking those actions!

Contact tracing has indicated that congregations of people are a major causal factor in the local spread of the coronavirus, especially those activities where people remove their masks, such as at restaurants and in smoke pits.

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Izzy Wells snags a rebound during the last high school game played by CHS before COVID-19 shut things down. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Six months down. Five to go?

Well, it’s a yes to the former, a maybe to the latter.

Tuesday – August 11, 2020 – marks six full months since the last time a Coupeville High School athletic team played an officially sanctioned game in any sport.

Way back on Feb. 11, the Wolf girls basketball team fell beneath a hail of three-point bombs put up by visiting Meridian, and was ushered out of the district playoffs after absorbing its second loss in as many nights.

That brought a close to a strong 12-7 campaign for CHS, playing its first season under new coach Scott Fox.

With nine of 13 players who scored during the season eligible to return, plus supernova sophomore Ja’Kenya Hoskins, who was injured the whole year, the future was, and is, a bright one.

At the time, the sadness of a season ending was muted by the knowledge most of the Wolf players would roll on into spring sports, returning to softball fields, tennis courts, or track ovals.

When the last stragglers exited the gym the night of Feb. 11, they had no way of knowing what was coming, or, what was probably already lingering in the air.

The rise of COVID-19, the moment when it went from being a whisper to a full-blown pandemic, was still around the corner, and no one knew the shutdown of sports was on its way.

Now, as we sit six months down the road, we know Wolf athletes never got a chance to play that spring sports season.

And, we know that after a summer in which traditional activities like little league were left by the wayside, there will be no fall high school sports season.

The good news is that fall, unlike spring, is not being outright cancelled, but instead moved, with sports such as football and volleyball hopping from September starts to March beginnings.

The hope, put forth by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, is that high school sports will return at the start of 2021, with basketball picking up where it left off.

Right now, practices are set to start the last week of December, with a compressed season, in which schools can play 70% of a normal schedule, beginning in January.

Then, if things hold, fall sports occupy March and April, and spring sports return in May and June.

But, as we know, COVID-19 operates as it chooses to operate, and not how we might like it to, meaning nothing is set in stone.

This week, though, we note the six-month anniversary of high school sports being AWOL in Coupeville.

I say “note,” because “celebrate” is probably not the right word.

Instead of being mad, though, we can look back to that last game and remember the highlights, of what was, and what can be again.

Facing off with an ultra-aggressive, very-successful Meridian squad which made it all the way to state, Coupeville had to dig out of a hole all night long.

Which doesn’t mean the Wolves didn’t have their spotlight moments.

Midway through the second quarter, sparked by a steal and bucket from senior Scout Smith, CHS went on a 10-4 surge.

During that run, underclassmen Anya LeavellCarolyn Lhamon, and Maddie Georges all scored, with Smith setting up Leavell on a note-perfect pass slipped between backpedaling defenders.

Then, late in the game, popular Wolf senior Tia Wurzrainer, celebrating her birthday, pulled up on the move and hit nothing but net on the final jump shot of her stellar prep hoops career.

That sent Coupeville fans into a tizzy in what would be, for now, the final great explosion by Wolf faithful at a high school sports event.

The six months since have been far quieter, and there is no doubt, far lonelier for many.

But the future is unwritten.

Just as we didn’t know that night that things would take a turn for the worse, some day we may look back at today and say, hey, this was where it all began to turn around.

So, I say, stay positive. Look forward. Continue to work.

There will be a day where, once again, Wolf athletes will play, Coupeville fans will be in the stands, and life will be back in a more-familiar rhythm.

None of us know how many hours, days, or months that will be.

But it will be. That I know.


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