COVID-19 restrictions put winter high school sports on hold

Due to a new COVID-19 mandate issued by Utah Governor Gary Herbert this past weekend, winter sports and activities at high schools in San Juan County are on hold for at least two weeks.

San Juan and Monticello high schools were both scheduled to begin basketball tryouts this week, wrestling teams were going to hit the mats, and drill teams were preparing for the beginning of their competitive seasons.

Now facilities are shut down and teams are not permitted to conduct any activities for the next two weeks per the governor’s mandate, which came in the midst of an upsurge of the coronavirus across the state.

At this time, it’s uncertain whether winter sports seasons will begin on time, begin late, be put on hold indefinitely, or be cancelled altogether following the two-week wait.

Governor Herbert declared a new state of emergency for Utah on Sunday, November 8 and issued a series of new restrictions, including a statewide mask mandate.

The new executive orders, which are signed by both Herbert and Governor-elect Spencer Cox, also limit social gatherings to people in the same households and place a hold on all school extracurricular activities, including athletic and intramural events.

The new restrictions don’t stop professional or college sports or the completion of the current high school football playoffs, as long as coaches and athletes test negative and crowds are severely limited. The order says there can be two attendees for every player or coach.

The governor’s restrictions took effect on Monday, November 9 and will end on November 23. In response to the mandate, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) announced it would suspend all winter sports during that period.

Part of the concern over winter sports activities is that they all occur indoors. Anecdotal evidence obtained by the San Juan Record appears to show there was a six-time higher COVID-19 infection rate for Utah girls volleyball this season when compared to the infection rate for girls soccer.

Referring to the governor’s new mandate, San Juan High School Athletic Director Lance Knight said, “We’re hoping this doesn’t extend into the Thanksgiving break and we can start tryouts as soon as we get the go-ahead after two weeks.”

He explained that San Juan coaches will get information to parents and athletes via online meetings. Workouts are strictly on an individual, at-home basis for the time being.

It’s likely, even if teams get the go-ahead after two weeks, that tryouts will be shortened and some events might even be cancelled.

“It’s definitely not optimal,” said Monticello High School Athletic Director Krieg Adair. “Regardless of this two weeks, we still want to wrestle, we still want to play basketball, and we still want to do drill so we’re just going to roll with it.”

The situation is a little more acute for two coaches who were set to make their debuts at MHS, Josh Keyes for boys basketball and Marcia Shumway for girls basketball.

Their tasks of conducting tryouts and getting practices in before opening games are now much more difficult, even if Keyes and Shumway weren’t first-year head coaches.

If the beginning of the winter sports season gets pushed back due to the delay, it’s more likely that events will have to be cancelled rather than rescheduled, according to Adair.

But, he said, “If we can come back in two weeks and take off and go, we’re going to be thankful that we’re able to do it.”

San Juan County’s Redrock 92.7 FM is implementing a plan to broadcast as many winter sports events as possible this season, considering there could be significant spectator restrictions at the events, if they take place at all.

As long as San Juan County remains in the Utah “High Level of Transmission” category, it is anticipated there will indeed be significant restrictions, limiting attendance to a small number of spectators or to a percentage of capacity of the venue hosting the event.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks. We’ll provide updates in the Record and on 92.7 FM as this situation develops.

San Juan Record

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Monticello, UT 84535

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