TACOMA, Wash. - Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Monday that Pierce County is one of three counties that will move back to Phase 2 of the Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery plan due to an increase in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations.
The rollback could impact the start of the season for traditional winter high school sports like basketball, wrestling and cheerleading. The activities are scheduled to begin May 2, according to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
Inslee said Pierce County, Cowlitz County and Whitman County will be reassessed on May 3.
Rolling back isn’t ideal for student-athletes in Tacoma Public Schools, but at least they have plenty of practice in Phase 2.
"One of my colleagues today said, ‘I guess we just dust off the playbook or we print it out again.’ Make a few updates to spectators regarding when and where and then move forward," said James Neil, the district’s Director of Athletics.
Neil said he is working with coaches throughout TPS on how the Phase 2 metrics will impact sports currently in season. This includes fast-pitch baseball, boys soccer, tennis, boys swimming and track and field.
"The one big change will be that in Phase 3 a lot of our athletes were able to compete without masks. And now we’ll be relegated to using masks again during competition," said Neil.
Up to 200 spectators will still be allowed at outdoor facilities, and must wear a mask at all times and maintain social distance. If Pierce County is not approved to move forward to Phase 3 during the reassessment, it could impact traditional winter sports that are scheduled to start May 2 for a five-week season.
"We’re being a little selfish in the school district because we want our kids to continue doing athletics and in Phase 2 we’re not allowed to compete in basketball and wrestling. So, that’s three weeks away," said Neil.
Basketball, wrestling and cheerleading are deemed "high risk" activities for transmission of coronavirus, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Neil said the plea for Tacoma is to think of the children and wear a mask.
"Remind people the importance of working together as a community and masking up and staying socially distant so that everybody can get back to doing what they want," said Neil. "We want them to have an opportunity this year just like the other kids did."
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