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Prep sports begin Dec. 28, open coaching extended

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The “second” season of high school sports is around the corner. Basketball, bowling, boys swim and dive, gymnastics and wrestling, are scheduled to begin practice on Dec. 28. After canceling season one in August, this will be the first time high school athletes see the playing surface in the 2020-2021 school year. 
The WIAA Executive Board recently released two considerable updates regarding high school sports within the state.
On Thursday, Oct. 9, the board voted to extend the open coaching period to Dec. 19, an additional 20 days from the previous date, Nov. 30. Three days prior on Oct. 6, the WIAA developed new guidelines for the return-to-play based on guidance released by Gov. Inslee and the Department of Health. 
A WIAA press release stated these revised guidelines give greater flexibility to school administrators to offer education-based athletics and activities and meet the demand of their students and communities.
The sport-specific, return-to-play guidelines will use county benchmarks to determine which sports or activities are recommended to take place. Each sport is classified into one of three tiers based on the risk of transmission via the level of activity; low, moderate or high. 
The upcoming WIAA season has five sports set to compete with varying levels of risk involved with each sport. Boys swim and dive is classified as low-risk, bowling and gymnastics are classified as moderate, leaving basketball and wrestling classified as high-risk. 
The WIAA Executive Board said staff will continue to work with decision-makers to evaluate sports deemed high-risk by reviewing all data and documentation available, in hopes to reduce the risk to moderate.
The Department of Health’s (DOH) school re-opening decision tree recommends classifying counties based on their current COVID-19 activity level. A high-risk county is qualified as more than 75 new cases per 100,000 people, over a two week period. Moderate-risk is classified as 25-75 new cases per 100,000 people and low- risk is qualified as less than 25 new cases per 100,000 people. Every two weeks the risk level is re-assessed.
As of Oct. 11, Snohomish County’s risk level is barely considered moderate with 72 new cases being confirmed over the previous two weeks. The county is expected to reach high-risk as cases have once again been on the rise. 
Indicating the risk of each sport allows for varying levels of activity based on the county’s current benchmarks; if a county’s activity level is at low-risk, it is safer for high-risk, more contact sports to compete. 
For high-risk counties, team practices or training can resume for low, medium, and high-risk sports, if players are limited to separate groups of six divided by a buffer zone. Brief contact, such as a three-on-three drill is permitted. High and moderate risk sports may not hold scrimmages, intra-team competitions or competitive league games. Low-risk sports are permitted to do so preferably if the district is conducting some in-person teaching. Only one parent, guardian, or caretaker, per uniformed athlete, is permitted to spectate while socially distanced.
For moderate risk counties, all sports may resume practice as normal. Scrimmages, intra-team competitions and competitive league games are allowed for both low and moderate-risk sports. Scrimmages and intra-team competitions are permitted for high-risk sports. One person per athlete is permitted to spectate.
For low-risk counties, all sports are allowed to return for regular practice and competitive league games. Spectators must abide by the safe start guidelines. 
Regardless of risk or activity level players, coaches, referees, volunteers and spectators must wear masks and practice social distancing as much as possible. Athletes and participants must wear a mask directly before and directly after sporting activities. Spectators must wear a mask at all times, abiding by DOH guidelines. Referees that are very active during games must wear masks directly before and after competition, similar to athletes.  
Although difficult at times, social distancing should be maintained between staff, volunteers and spectators. Athletes who are not engaged in a sporting activity, huddle or team meeting should practice social distancing as well.
The press release stated, “The WIAA Executive Board and staff are pleased with the work that has been done to allow students to be more involved with their schools, as participation in the school setting provides safer and more equitable opportunities for students, especially during this time.”
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