The WIAA Executive Board voted Tuesday evening to push back the winter high school sports season tentative start date by more than a month, while maintaining an abbreviated three-season calendar in 2021. 

Each season is shortened to seven weeks. The first season, which includes high-risk basketball and wrestling, will now begin on Feb. 1.

The decision comes as the state of Washington continues to set records for number of daily COVID-19 cases across the state, in step with a grim national surge of the virus nationwide. Most counties were not on track to meet the COVID requirements to hold sports at the previous start date — Dec. 28.

As part of the announcement, the open coaching window is extended to Jan. 23.

Washington is one of around a dozen states that is not currently playing high school sports under its state’s response to the coronavirus. The last competition took place in early March, more than eight months ago.

On Sunday, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a four-week proclamation halting indoor practices, training and competition and limiting outdoor activity to be done in groups of six for high-risk sports. Low and moderate risk sports can hold intra-squad scrimmages.

For many schools across the state, that meant putting a halt to some of the first practices held since the outset of the pandemic. 

As of Monday, the state Department of Health reported 2,589 new cases — a daily record — and 23 new deaths.

The Governor’s office set in place guidelines in early October that require counties to maintain a 14-day COVID-19 case rate of fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people and less than a 5 percent positivity rate to allow high-risk education-based sports to take place. 

Even under the new season calendar, 50 percent of schools in a given sport must be eligible under the governor’s guidelines in order for that season to take place. If 50 percent of teams aren’t eligible, the executive board will move the sport to a later season “in order to allow the chance for greater participation,” the WIAA press release said.

In an interview with SBLive in early November, WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman said the governor’s office and the DOH plan on revising guidances for education-based athletics in early December.

Each sport has been designated a level of risk by the state DOH. Sports with lots of close contact, such as basketball, football, wrestling and dance/dril, have been deemed high-risk. Sports that take place indoors are also deemed to be higher in risk than outdoors due to how the virus spreads inside enclosed spaces. 

(Editor’s note: The WIAA lists them as “Seasons 2, 3 and 4” because a fall season — “Season 1” — was designated for district that wanted to hold low-risk sports, but none did.)

UPDATED SPORTS CALENDAR

WASHINGTON’S COVID DASHBOARD

Here is how the WIAA defines each sport:

HIGH-RISK: 
    • Basketball 
    • Cheerleading with contact 
    • Dance with contact 
    • Football 
    • Wrestling

MODERATE-RISK: 
    • Baseball 
    • Bowling 
    • Gymnastics 
    • Soccer 
    • Softball 
    • Volleyball

LOW-RISK: 
    • Cross Country 
    • Golf 
    • Sideline/no-contact cheerleading and dance 
    • Swimming and Diving 
    • Tennis 
    • Track and Field

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