High school winter sports hope to proceed 'as planned, with modifications'

Desert Hills boys swimmers celebrate with coach in pool after winning Region 9 championship, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 25, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE — Three state education entities met with officials from the state and department of health Monday to prepare a proposal to the governor’s office to allow the high school winter sports season to proceed as planned. Approval of the plan is expected to be announced within the next couple of days.

“We don’t have all the details at the moment, other than we’re planning on a full season at this point,” Washington County School District Communications Director Steve Dunham said. “We’re meeting with everybody so that we can make a good plan that will benefit everybody.”

The Utah School Superintendents Association, Utah High School Activities Association and Utah State Board of Education met yesterday to create a plan for winter sports under the guidance of the Utah Department of Health to allow the five sports — boy’s and girl’s basketball, wrestling, swimming and drill team — to compete for their full seasons.

The proposal was delivered to state officials Tuesday and reviewed by Gov. Gary Herbert and the health department in a meeting in the afternoon. Specifics have yet to be announced, pending the approval of the governor’s office.

Unlike fall sports, most of which were played outdoors and therefore held a lower risk of transmission, all five UHSAA winter sports normally take place indoors, adding a new wrinkle to playing sports in the safest way possible. Basketball and wrestling, in particular, require close-quarter, extended contact between competing teams.

In swimming, the athletes are in close proximity before entering the water, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated there is no evidence of the virus being transmissible through water, particularly pools treated with chlorine or bromine.

Bear River at Hurricane, Hurricane, Utah, Feb. 21, 2020 | Photo by Dave Larson, St. George News

Drill team is the only winter sport that does not require competing athletes to be in close proximity to each other.

Volleyball was permitted to play indoors in the fall, with protocols in order to limit contact between the two teams, including the elimination of pregame and postgame handshakes and high fives. It is possible that the guidelines for winter sports will follow closely to volleyball.

However, the winter sports proposal comes as cases of COVID-19 increase locally and at the state and national levels. It is to be determined what effect, if any, the latest spike had on the writing of the proposal.

It is unknown what the protocols will be for allowing fans, athlete travel and other variables relating to the pandemic.

What is known is that “most sports” will be viewable via live stream, Dunham said, to permit spectating away from the event itself. Which sports will be included and what means will be used to deliver the streams has not been announced.

While information is sparse now, the governing bodies of Utah high school athletics expect their proposal to be formally approved by the governor’s office as soon as Wednesday.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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