Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s decree Friday to close down all schools in that state for 5½ weeks starting at midnight Tuesday has had a ripple effect, and has thrown the high school sports scene into havoc.
Meanwhile, it’s status quo in the state of Idaho, where the first case of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, was reported by state health officials.
Inslee expanded school closures from just three counties that had the highest amount of reported cases of the coronavirus to the entire state. The closures begin March 17 and will continue through April 24, with the first possible day of returning being April 27. With that, all extracurricular activities across the Evergreen State, which include practices and game competition, are shut down starting today.
Pullman athletic director Chris Franklin said the move is unprecedented and something he’s never seen.
“Twenty-six years in being in athletics, and this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Franklin, who had to deal with more than 140 modifications to his schedule a year ago but that was because of inclement weather. “This one is definitely different because it’s such a unique thing to deal with. There is no recipe on how to deal with it. This is bizarre. Gives a whole new meaning to March Madness, and that is not a good thing.”
The numbers of cases of COVID-19 in Washington state continue to rise. According to Associated Press figures Friday, more than 6,000 people have been tested and there were 568 positive cases in 19 counties.
Previously, Inslee closed schools only in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
However, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has not canceled its spring sports tournaments. That means the season, which already is compressed to a short time frame, has become shorter.
In fact, Asotin athletic director Brendan Johnson early Friday thought that the entire season would be in jeopardy. However, he pulled back from an earlier notice of canceling the entire season once it became apparent the WIAA was not going to pull the plug on the spring championships.
“We have a very small window, a slim chance for spring sports,” Johnson said. “As with the rest of the state, we are constantly in flux. It was day to day, but now it’s minute to minute. But until the WIAA clarifies and cancels state tournaments, we’re going to follow Gov. Inslee’s mandate.”
Also, the WIAA reported a tournament worker at the Class 3A and 4A state basketball tournament held at the TacomaDome tested positive for coronavirus. The person was thought to first have shown symptoms on March 9. No other person involved in the tournaments, which also were conducted in Yakima and Spokane, are known to have shown symptoms of the virus.
Meanwhile, the Moscow school district in Idaho will continue to conduct interscholastic activities this coming week, then shut down for a period of two weeks once the district’s spring break concludes.
High school athletic director Lance Abendroth said from March 23 through April 4, there will be no practices or events taking place. Once that two-week period is up, then the district will re-evaluate its position.
“Everything is happening very fast,” said Abendroth, who has been involved in coaching or athletic administration since 1992. “My first thing is safety. It’s not only the safety of the student-athletes, but it’s everyone involved. From the fans, to concession workers, to bus drivers.”
The Idaho Press in Nampa reported the Idaho High School Athletic Association will meet Monday with how to proceed with spring sports but games and events currently still are under the jurisdiction of school officials.
As of late Friday, Lewiston High School is proceeding with plans to stage its own track meet at 10 a.m. today at Vollmer Bowl, but Lapwai has moved its Central Idaho Invitational from today to Tuesday because of expected inclement weather in the area.
The fact that track is an outdoor sport played a role in deciding whether to move forward with the Lewiston Invitational. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is recommeding canceling or postponing mass gatherings and public events if, among other factors, “the event will be held indoors and bring together more than 250 individuals where social distancing of 6 feet or more is unlikely or not possible.”
Three schools, all from Idaho, have pulled out of the Lewiston event for unstated reasons, leaving the Bengals with an eight-team field. The meet likely is to wrap up mid-afternoon.
Expected teams are Lewiston, Kamiah, Orofino, Coeur d’Alene, St. Maries, Priest River, Timberlake and Lakeland.
Depending on weather conditions, especially in locales north of Lewiston, LHS is leaving open the possibility of canceling the meet.
A Lapwai official said the decision to move the CII was based solely on the expectation of snowfall between 3 a.m. and 10 a.m. today. The meet is set to begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Abendroth praised the athletic directors of Districts I and II for their cooperation and willingness to work with others throughout the area who are dealing with this issue in real time.
“All of the athletic directors in District I and II have been incredibly wonderful to work with in this situation,” he said. “I can’t think of a better group of people. They’re all thinking of safety first at this time.”
Dale Grummert contributed to this report.
Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.