With COVID-19 numbers rising, winter sports have been put on hold.
Monday night, Madison County School Board Members agreed to postpone the start of winter sports until Jan. 12. Games were originally scheduled to begin next week.
Superintendent Anna Graham suggested a few metrics for deciding to participate or not participate in activities. She recommended that both Madison County and the opposing county must have some sort of in-school instruction and not be all virtual. She said both counties should also be in the moderate risk or lower category for the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons within the last 14 days, as well as the percentage of RT-PCR tests positive during the last 14 days. Currently, Madison County is the highest risk, or red, category for total cases and is in the moderate risk, or yellow, category for percentage of tests positive. The majority of counties in Virginia are in the red category.
“Decisions have to be made,” Graham said. “We also don’t want to send students to a high-risk area.”
She gave board members options—cancel winter sports; postpone them until Jan. 12; continue as usual with the suggested metrics; or continue without the suggested metrics. Board members opted to postpone winter sports and continue with the suggested metrics after that time.
Activities director Keith Slezak said other counties are making similar decisions with Clarke, Luray, Page and East Rockingham counties having also postpone the start of their seasons.
Graham said teams will continue with conditioning and practices using the suggested metrics and existing mitigation plans that were developed for each sport earlier this year.
“We’re trying to find a happy medium, but keep kids safe and listen to the experts,” Graham said. She noted that the health district is currently recommending against competitions.
“It’s painful, but we have to go with the postponement,” board member Arthur Greene, Jr. said.
“These are not easy decisions,” Graham added. “We all wish COVID would go away quickly.”
Meanwhile, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) has rescinded a recent mandate that required athletes to wear masks and face coverings during competition and practice. The mandate was announced last week and was based on recommendations by the Virginia Department of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as Governor Ralph Northam’s updated mask mandate that requires all Virginians ages 5 and older to wear face coverings in indoor settings shared with others and outdoors when within six feet of another person.
VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said that updated mandate doesn’t apply to individuals exercising.
“VHSL apologizes for any confusion created by its original release,” said Haun in a statement. “We ask the public to understand that it is the first mission of VHSL to make sure that athletics are conducted in a safe and healthy environment, and it was that desire that motivated the original decision.”