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Now with winter coming, sports are having to transition from outside to indoors. This has the state worried about an increased spread of the virus and has prompted state officials to make changes regarding high school sports.
On Sunday, Nov. 8, Gov. Gary Herbert addressed the state, calling attention to the recent surge in cases and introducing new mandates intended to slow the spread of the virus. With this announcement, all high school sports and activities have been temporarily postponed until Monday Nov. 23.
“Everything is postponed for the next two weeks, except for the conclusion of our state football championships,” said Jon Oglesby, Assistant Director of the Utah High School Activities Association (USHAA). “The governor’s office, as well as the state health department are hoping that, [with] not only these actions but several other things they’re doing, they’re hoping to see a reduction of COVID-19 cases in our state.”
The state plans to use the two week postponement period to put testing protocols in place for student athletes involved in winter sports.
“We do know that winter sports will include COVID-19 testing at some level,” Oglesby said. “What that level will look like, we’re not totally sure.”
With the changes announced by the governor come more changes from the USHAA.
“We do have some different things that will be happening [regarding] spectators over the next, for sure in the near future,” Oglesby said.
These other changes will take effect when winter sports start up again on Nov. 23.
“Our concern is certainly for the [case] numbers that have increased in the state,” said NSSD superintendent Nan Ault.
For the past several weeks, the number of positive COVID cases in Utah has been increasing rapidly. This is what prompted the governor’s recent announcement and helped push the state into making more changes.
“The first thing that they would probably address is the amount of people that are gathering,” Ault said.
But so far, there have been no definitive answers from the state regarding the changes that they plan to make.
These changes are coming on top of the guidelines that coaches received initially, including taking temperatures, sanitizing equipment and wearing masks when practical.
“Coaches are still required to take temperatures before every practice, before you get on the bus to go to games,” Bailey said.
These new guidelines from the state will affect all winter sports and activities.
“I think that playing in front of not that many fans is different, especially in boys basketball,” said Cris Hoopes, head basketball coach at NS.
Hoopes says that in their preseason practices and games, they have been careful to follow the guidelines that they already have, and he hopes that by doing these things, they will be able to keep their program going when it eventually starts.
“For sure we’re gonna take temperatures and clean our equipment,” Hoopes said. “We’re gonna try to do social distancing as much as we can, masks are obviously gonna be a part. If we’re sitting on the bench and we’re not active.”
Even with all of the new changes, to Hoopes it is definitely worth it to be able to keep playing.
“We feel like we’re gonna do what we need to do to play basketball as a program,” Hoopes said.
The USHAA and state health department recognize that athletes and sports programs are trying to be COVID safe, and they are working on a way for these programs to be able to play.
“Our sports are going to look different, there’s no doubt about that,” Oglesby said, “but the hope is that through that, we can continue with sports and we can get winter sports started again as soon as possible.”