High school sports across the state of Washington are now set to officially return in all but one region.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday afternoon that five regions will advance to Phase 2 of the state’s Health Washington reopening plan.
Starting Monday, moderate and high-risk outdoor sports will be permitted to resume with restrictions in the Northwest, North, Southwest, North Central and East regions, encompassing 33 of the state’s 39 counties.
For most of the state, that means winter seasons in sports like football, volleyball and girls soccer may start seasons.
The South Central region is the only region that remains in Phase 1. It includes Kittitas, Yakima, Franklin, Benton, Walla Walla and Columbia County.
In January, the WIAA created a condensed three-season calendar that puts traditional fall sports — cross country, football, slow pitch softball, girls and B-level boys soccer, swim and dive, volleyball, golf and tennis — first in line with a Feb. 1 start. But the state association gave leagues the option to break from its proposed schedule in favor of locally-formulated schedules.
Many leagues have done that.
Low risk outdoor sports like golf and tennis are allowed to resume competition in Phase 1, thus have been able to start seasons in parts of the state.
The eight regions were created based on health care systems with the goal of not overwhelming hospitals amid a global health crisis.
On Jan. 28, Inslee moved the West and Puget Sound regions into Phase 2 and said trend-based COVID-19 metrics would be reassessed every two weeks to determine if the rest of the state could move on.
Leagues in those regions scheduled high school sports accordingly, some planning games as early as Friday. Those regions span Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific, Thurston, King Pierce and Snohomish Counties.
Around the rest of the state, many leagues concocted season schedules in dry-erase, with the hope that their regions would advance to Phase 2 on Feb. 12.
COVID-19 trends in the South Central region will be reassessed in two weeks — Feb. 26. The earliest the region can now advance to Phase 2 is March 1.
The state assesses whether or not a region is ready to move to Phase 2 if the region has recorded a 10 percent decrease in positive COVID-19 cases, a 10 percent decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations, a lower than 10 percent positive test rate and an intensive care unit occupancy rate under 90 percent.
Risk level for each sport, as determined by the state department of health:
• Cheerleading with contact
• Dance with contact
• Cross Country
• Sideline/no-contact cheerleading and dance
• Swimming and Diving
• Track and Field
(Lead photo by Vince Miller, @vmillerphoto)