The only game happening for high school athletes in Washington right now is the waiting game.
And that game will continue for three more weeks.
The Executive Board of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association decided Tuesday night to set another meeting on Jan. 4 to determine if prep sports can resume as scheduled on Feb. 1.
Currently, the prospects of starting as scheduled do not look good.
Executive Board president Tim Thomsen told the Eli Sports Network that no county in the state currently meets the metrics for beginning competition for basketball and wrestling, two sports in Season 2 of the WIAA revised calendar that are considered “high risk” under current guidelines.
Currently for those sports to be played, a county must be in the low range for COVID-19 cases — fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.
This week, only one county — San Juan County — is in the moderate range (25-75 per 100K). Every other county is well into the high range. Clark County currently has 450 cases per 100,000. Cowlitz County is at 327.
But there are other counties far worse. Spokane County is at 803.5 and Franklin County in the Tri-Cities area is over 1,000.
Thomsen noted that with vaccines arriving in the state this week that a lot can change in the next three weeks in regards to the outbreak and the guidelines to play.
“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. And the guidelines just haven’t caught up with all over those things.”
But signs of that happening arrived Wednesday, when Gov. Jay Inslee announced changes to recommendations for high schools to begin phased-in in-person learning. Inslee said that could happen for schools in counties that are seeing fewer than 350 cases per 100,000.
“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. “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.”
In November, the WIAA executive board pushed back the start of Season 2 from late December to Feb. 1 and condensed the three remaining seasons (Seasons 2, 3 and 4) to seven weeks — one week for practices, five weeks of regular-season competition and one week for a regional culminating event.
If conditions do not allow prep sports to resume on Feb. 1, one possible option the WIAA could take is to further condense the remaining seasons to six weeks, which would push the start back to Feb. 22.
“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.”
Thomsen said the WIAA could also consider moving sports seasons around to allow for low-risk sports to start first.
While adding the WIAA would do everything it could to preserve all three remaining seasons, if that is not an option, then it would have to consider stacking sports into two seasons or canceling some sport seasons all together.
“But we’re not there yet,” he said.
The question now remains if WIAA will be there on Jan. 4.
“We’re going to take a look at our current situation and make the best decision we can make on Jan. 4, which we think is going to be a better one than if we made that decision (Tuesday night),” Thomsen said.