The Utah High School Activities Association sent a memo to high schools Thursday informing them of new winter sports start dates, and it strongly pointed out that the new start dates are tentative.
On Sunday night, Gov. Gary Herbert announced a new executive order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Utah, which has seen record-breaking daily case numbers, percent positive rates and hospitalization numbers in recent weeks.
Among many other things in the executive order, it postponed winter sports at the scholastic level as well as recreation sports until at least Nov. 23. The UHSAA memo reads that high school winter sports can start on the new dates “provided the Governor’s Executive Health Order isn’t extended further than Nov. 23.”
The new tryout date for basketball, swimming and wrestling is Nov. 24. The competition start date for basketball and swimming is now Dec. 3, while wrestling competition starts Dec. 15.
Drill has perhaps the most dramatic changes, according to the memo. All December competitions are moved to January and, since the state drill championships are still going to be held the first week of February, that creates a scheduling backlog should the governor’s executive order expire and allow competition.
Drill coaches will get a new schedule of competitions and dates on Nov. 16. The drill RPI will be suspended this year, the first round of the drill state tournament will be an all-comers tournament and will determine who moves on to the finals.
If teams choose to not go to a competition they were originally assigned to attend, they will be refunded their entry fee, according to the memo.
Compared to the spring shutdown, which was first a two-week pause before turning into two-plus months and is thus why many winter sports coaches are extremely nervous, there are three main things different right now.
The first is that schools are still technically open, though most high schools in Weber, Davis and Box Elder County have either hit the 15-case threshold that necessitates a 14-day shutdown or are close to it.
The second is that the UHSAA has set firm dates for resuming competition, which it didn’t do in the spring. In the spring it was exploring its options but without schools being open, there wasn’t much it could do.
The third is that the governor’s health order and new guidance indicates that after Nov. 23, there will be weekly testing for high school sports participants, though details of that process haven’t been made available.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
At a press briefing Thursday, Herbert and state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn delivered startling new numbers for Utah’s COVID-19 situation: a daily record high of 3,919 confirmed positive cases (nearly 1,000 more than the previous high), statewide ICU utilization at 87.4% and nine deaths.
The grim news is the latest in a seemingly never-ending daily experience of bad news on Utah’s COVID-19 front.
The glimmer of good news came from Dunn, who reported that 1,260 people associated with high school football teams (players, coaches, staff, etc.) still playing in the playoffs were tested this week. Of the 1,360 tests there were 49 positive cases, or a rate of 3.6%.
Part of the governor’s executive order granted an exception to prep football teams to keep playing in the playoffs as long as they came back with negative tests.
Morgan High’s football team, which is playing in Saturday’s 3A state championship game in St. George for instance, was tested Thursday by a mobile team from the Utah Department of Health.