The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association tripled down on its return-to-play guidelines Tuesday, issuing updated protocols in a news release and basically telling schools, via the governor’s office, they must follow those mandates to the letter.

Since shutting down sports in March and moving its fall sports season to 2021 in July because of the coronavirus pandemic, the WIAA has been sending out regular updates to its guidance as well as having to fend off a couple of student challenges.

But this update seems to be the most stark and contains the strictest language to date on a return to play, and it does not mince words.

“The Governor’s office has informed the WIAA that these guidelines must be followed and neither schools nor community sports programs have the authority to implement more lenient policies,” the statement reads.

But as of right now, neither Whitman, Asotin nor Garfield counties are in the range that it would take for athletics to resume.

All sports have been classified into three different categories of risk, and participation for those sports will be contingent on each county’s ability to meet certain benchmark in COVID-19 cases during a certain period.

The three different categories of risk for sports haven’t changed, so for sports such as cross country, golf, tennis and track and field, those are low risk. Sports such as baseball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball, those are moderate risk. High risk activities still include the high profile sports of basketball and football, as well as wrestling.

But now, counties must meet certain minimums in order to safely conduct certain competitions.

For football, as an example, there must be fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people during a 14-day period and the positivity rate must be less than 5 percent. In other words, there must a low risk of transmission in order to safely conduct competitions.

The same holds true for basketball and wrestling.

Baseball and volleyball competitions can take place at schools in counties where there are greater than 25 but less than 75 cases per 100,000 people during a 14-day time frame and less than 5 percent positivity rate.

Cross country competitions can take place at schools in counties where the numbers are greater than 75 per 100,000 during a 14-day time period or greater than 5 percent positivity.

As of Tuesday, Whitman County is averaging an astonishig 508.7 cases per 100,000 people during the past 14 days with a 43.5 percent positivity rate. In Asotin County the markers are slightly better, with an average of 222 cases per 100,000 people during that two-week time frame with a positivity rate at 14.4 percent. Garfield County’s numbers are even better, with 135.1 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days with a positivity rate of 7.1 percent.

Bottom line: None of the schools in those counties could qualify to compete in cross country right now, let alone play football or basketball games.

Donn Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, dwalden@lmtribune.com, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.

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