200 COVID-19 cases linked to high school wrestling tourneys; new safety guidance for indoor sports released

The Washington State Department of Health announced on Friday that it updated its health and safety guidance in response to the COVID-19 outbreaks linked to the high school wrestling tournaments this month. 

Officials also said there are now about 200 COVID-19 cases in connection with the tournaments. 

RELATED: DOH: COVID-19 outbreaks connected to multiple high school wrestling tournaments

Several counties had high schools that participated in the events: Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Skagit, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Whatcom and Yakima. A high school in Oregon also sent participants.

Effective immediately, the department of health is adding the following changes for all indoor, high-contact sports and activities:

  • Required testing of all athletes, coaches, trainers, and support personnel, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Increased testing frequency to three times per week. Among those screening tests, at least one must occur no sooner than the day before the competition; ideally, and whenever possible, the day of the event.

"Omicron is a game-changer, but we know layered prevention measures slow the spread of COVID-19 in sports, schools, and communities." said Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy Secretary for the COVID-19 response. "Please get vaccinated, boosted, wear a well-fitting mask, and maintain your distance to help our kids stay healthy, stay in the game, and stay in school."

Mick Hoffman is the executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. Before DOH updated the safety measures, Hoffman said only unvaccinated students were required to take COVID tests twice a week.He said that was estimated to about 40,000 kids statewide that participated in indoor high-contact sports like wrestling, basketball and competitive cheer.

"So, now you’re talking three times a week on a 120,000 tests roughly that you have to distribute to all corners and small pockets of Washington. So, it requires our schools—it takes time, they’re going to have to be organized to do that," said Hoffman. "The bigger question is the workload on our staff to administer all of those tests. And not that it’s hard, but it takes time."

Everett School District confirmed some of its students participated in the wrestling tournaments, but have not received reports of positive COVID cases. Still, the district began proactively adjusting its safety plan in anticipation of the state’s new requirements.

"We don’t want to be in a position where we get an announcement like this and then we’re scrambling to try and set things up potentially canceling games, practices. We wanted to be able to continue as normal," said Dani Mundell, the district's athletic's and activities director. "We just want to see our kids playing. We want to see our kids competing, we want to see them participating in any sports, clubs, activities, things where kids are staying connected and interacting in healthy ways with other kids."

During a media briefing, Friday, leaders of Public Health - Seattle & King County said the updated guidance should be adopted for all students and schools as Omicron variant cases are spreading at an alarming rate.

"Masking in schools, vaccination of all eligible students are all going to be really important. You know, it’s the same risk reduction measures, but really you want to make sure people are very compulsive about adhering to them to the greatest extent possible," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County.

For those attending events, the department of health is reminding people of the follow: 

  • All indoor event spectators must wear masks and should distance from other families or households to the degree possible.
  • Mask wearing is required among all athletes, coaches, trainers, and support personnel in indoor public spaces except when actively competing.
  • Referees must wear masks except when actively officiated and running.

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