Cowlitz County will revert to Phase 2 in the state’s reopening plan on Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced, and that will have an impact on high school sports throughout Southwest Washington.
High-risk sports of basketball and wrestling were given the green light last month when the entire state moved the Phase 3. In Cowlitz County, at least, those sports have been put on hold.
The 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League is scheduled to open the basketball season on April 20. And for now, it will open minus one member – Kelso.
Kelso athletic director Jason Coburn told the Longview Daily News that he expects the Hilanders to miss, at minimum, the first three weeks of the basketball season and the first two weeks of the wrestling season, which is scheduled to begin competitions in the 4A/3A GSHL teams on April 28. Kelso was scheduled to take part in a three-way wrestling match with Camas and Battle Ground on April 28. Now, that will be a two-team dual — Camas at Battle Ground.
The 4A/3A GSHL seasons are scheduled to continue through June 4.
Inslee said counties’ reopening status would be reassessed on May 3, meaning a return to Phase 3 for Cowlitz County might not become effective until May 7 at the earliest. Counties will be reassessed every three weeks. So if Cowlitz does not meet the standards to return to Phase 3, it would remain in Phase 2 until May 28, effectively wiping out Kelso’s basketball and wrestling seasons.
All other sports will continue as scheduled. However, there will be changes for Cowlitz County teams.
The rule requiring mask-wearing during competitions was dropped when the state moved to Phase 3. Now with Cowlitz back in Phase 2, masks will again be required for events played in Cowlitz County.
Camas athletic director Rory Oster said the rest of the league will abide by Phase 2 restrictions as they pertain to spectators and mask-wearing when playing Kelso, whether in Kelso or in Clark County.
In the 2A GSHL, Cowlitz schools include Woodland, Mark Morris and R.A. Long. Castle Rock is the lone Cowlitz school in the 1A Trico League, and Kalama is the lone Cowlitz member of the 2B Central League.
The Trico League and 2B Central League are schedule to begin practices in Season 3 (winter sports) on April 26 and begin play the week of May 3, meaning Cowlitz’s move to Phase 2 might only have a limited impact on basketball and wrestling schedules. That is provided Cowlitz County returns to Phase 3 after the May 3 reassessment.
Woodland athletic director Paul Huddleston said the 2A GSHL will not begin league competition in Season 3 sports until the week of May 17, but teams can schedule non-league games the week of May 10. So the hope is that the 2A GSHL won’t be impacted by Cowlitz’s move to Phase 2.
“Hopefully Phase 2 is temporary for us and Clark County can avoid going down at the next check on May 3,” Huddleston said.
And that remains the lingering concern over the rest of the school year.
Last Friday, Inslee announced new thresholds that must be met for each county to remain in Phase 3. For large counties, like Clark and Cowlitz counties, the thresholds are new COVID case rate of less than 200 for 100,000 residents and a seven-day average of new COVID hospitalizations below five per 100,000. Counties missing both thresholds will be moved down to Phase 2.
The state department of health reported that Cowlitz’s case rate was 332.1 and hospitalization rate was 11.8.
Clark’s case rate was 138.2 and hospitalization rate was 2.4.
Small counties needed to have a case rate below 100 and a hospitalization rate below 3.
Skamania County, which includes Stevenson, had a case rate of 40.9 and a hospitalization rate of 0.0. Klickitat County, which includes Columbia-White Salmon and Goldendale, had a case rate of 17.6 and a hospitalization rate of 0.