UPDATED: Northeast 2B League tentatively planning Feb. 1 start date
Last updated 1/21/2021 at 3:37pm
DAVENPORT – Many high school sports leagues around the state are making their own decisions about how to proceed with fall sports, which the WIAA had tentatively planned for Feb. 1. The Northeast 2B League decided to aim to start all fall sports that day after an league-wide athletic director’s meeting Jan. 15, with the possibility of another delay coming.
Reardan co-athletic director Eric Nikkola, who took part in the meeting, said that a final decision on whether to start Feb. 1 will come Jan. 25. If COVID-19 case numbers are down and league schools appear to be heading to “Phase 2” of Gov. Jay Inslee’s recently updated state re-opening plan, Feb. 1 will be the day.
However, if the trend appears to be that league members will still be in “Phase 1,” all fall sports will be delayed until Feb. 15.
Another decision on possible delays beyond that will come Feb. 8, though Nikkola said cross country, which is considered the lowest-risk fall sport that NE2B teams participate in, won’t be delayed beyond Feb. 15. Sports affected by a possible second or third delay, which would push these sports to Feb. 22, would likely be football, volleyball or soccer. However, those sports can still hold outdoor practices in pods while following mandated health guidelines in “Phase 1.”
The WIAA divided state counties into eight regions earlier this month so schools fitting into Phase 1 or Phase 2 could be evaluated on a regional basis. Lincoln County and all NE2B schools fall into the “East” region, which also includes Spokane, Stevens, Ferry, Pend Orielle, Adams, Whitman, Garfield and Asotin counties.
Per new metrics adopted by the Department of Health, regions must meet four metrics to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2: A decreasing of more than 10% in a two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population, the same trend among COVID-19 hospital admission rates, an ICU occupancy of less than 90% and a COVID-19 test positivity rate of less than 10%.
Those metrics must be maintained for regions to stay in Phase 2 once they get there, as well.
Sports are still divided into low, moderate and high risk categories, with varying guidelines depending on risk level and whether the sport is indoor or outdoor.
Football is considered high risk. In Phase 1, practice is allowed with athletes in groups of six. Brief close contact, such as three-on-three drills, is allowed. In Phase 2, competitions are allowed, with a maximum of 200 people permitted to attend, including spectators. Nikkola said when athletes, coaches and officials are factored in, this would likely leave 100 spots for spectators.
Soccer is considered a moderate risk outdoor sport. In Phase 1, only practice and training is allowed, but intra-team scrimmages are permitted. In Phase 2, competitions are allowed, with a maximum of 200 people including spectators permitted to attend.
Volleyball is considered a moderate risk indoor sport. In Phase 1, practice is allowed in groups of six, with brief close contact permitted. Occupancy is limited to 500 square feet per person. In Phase 2, competitions are allowed, and venues are limited to 25% capacity or 200 individuals, whichever is less.
Cross country is considered a low risk outdoor sport. In Phase 1, competitions are allowed, but no spectators are permitted. A maximum of 200 people including spectators at meets are allowed in Phase 2.
Nikkola is in charge of creating the league’s football schedule. He said schools will have to be prepared for COVID-19 to affect games on possibly a week-by-week basis through rescheduling, moving or cancelling games, though postponing games and making them up at a later date is unlikely given the time constraints remaining on the calendar to fit all sports in.
“We have to be ready to move or cancel games,” Nikkola said, noting winter weather could also impact where games take place.
Right now, Nikkola is creating a schedule that would allow each school five to six football games.
That tentative schedule will be reviewed and possibly accepted at a NE2B athletic director’s meeting Jan. 22.
All games are likely to be league-only this season. Nikkola said the flexibility existed to play possible NEA opponents on the off-chance that worked out, but that opportunity was likely squashed when the NEA announced it isn’t starting fall sports until March 1 Wednesday. Scheduling non-league games with a 1B opponent is highly unlikely, he said.