State delays remaining high school sports seasons

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    By Randi Pierce
    Staff Writer

    In light of rising COVID-19 cases across the state, the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) announced Monday that the start of Season B has been delayed.

    The change also affects the planned starts of seasons C and D.

    “The start of Season B sports has been delayed, following communication between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment [CDPHE] and the Colorado High School Activities Association late Sunday night,” a press release from CHSAA explains.

    In a letter sent to CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green, the CDPHE indicated that Season B would not be permitted to begin on Jan. 4, 2021, as had been scheduled on the CHSAA 2020-21 sports calendar. 

    The CDPHE further stated that no variances will be given to CHSAA sports at this time.

    In the letter, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the CDPHE wrote, “The COVID-19 pandemic has reached an all time high in terms of disease transmission both in Colorado and around the nation. The Colorado School of Public Health estimates that 1 in 40 Coloradans are currently infectious. Hospital admissions are steadily increasing, and the past six weeks have produced a significant increase in the number of deaths statewide. With the Thanksgiving holiday just behind us and the impending December holiday festivities, we are very concerned that the rate of transmission will continue to increase.

    “At this time, we do not have enough information about what disease incidence and hospitalization capacity will look like in January, and therefore are unable to make a determination regarding indoor high school athletics in Season B. Season B high school sports would operate based on the restrictions in the level of the Dial in the county in which the school resides. For counties in Level Red, this means no indoor group sports are authorized.”

    The letter also touches upon the CDPHE’s goal of supporting in-person education.

    It states, “In addition, our top goal for the new year is to support a return to in-person learning. Season B sports are conducted mainly indoors during the colder months, which reduces the ability to assure social distancing. This in turn may further promote disease transmission at a time when we need to ensure that students and teachers are protected and that in-person learning is the highest priority.

    “We welcome an ongoing conversation regarding the indoor requests at a future date as more schools safely open their indoor facilities for students.”

    As a result, Monday’s press release explains, CHSAA is proposing a Feb. 1 start date for Season B. 

    CHSAA, the CDPHE and Gov. Jared Polis’ COVID Response Team plan to meet again mid-January to continue the discussion around variances for Season B, and reassess COVID-19 data at that time. Variances will not be considered prior to that date.

    Specifics for each sport will be communicated upon variance approval from the CDPHE, CHSAA announced.

    Pagosa Springs High School (PSHS) Athletic Director Marcie Ham indicated that, despite the delays, officials across the state are meeting to set game limits, look at state tournament plans and focus on other contingency plans to be ready.

    They’re also reflecting on the fall seasons.

    “We’re taking the lessons we learned and applying them,” she said.

    Ham noted that, for the most part, people have handled news of the delay well, but acknowledged negative response to the news on social media.

    “I think people are extremely understanding,” she said, noting that if you only look at social media comments, you’ll get a very skewed picture. “The very large majority are happy that we’re trying to move forward in a way that can actually happen.”

     Ham also expressed hope.

    “I think we have a really good shot of starting on Feb. 1, I do,” she said, adding that people want sports to happen. “I think everybody will do everything they can.”

    But, the athletic director warned that she does not anticipate spectators being allowed if the season begins on Feb. 1, but could be allowed as the sports year progresses, COVID-19 cases decrease and vaccines become available.

    Proposed calendar

    CHSAA also announced a new proposed calendar for winter and spring of 2021 on Monday, but noted that it is subject to variance approval.

    CHSAA has proposed a seven-week Season B in which practices would begin on Jan. 25 and competition would run from Feb. 1 to March 20.

    For PSHS, that would include boys’ and girls’ basketball, wrestling, girls’ swimming and spirit, with the spirit championship weekend proposed to be March 25-27.

    A proposed seven-week Season C, then, is proposed to begin with practices on March 15 and competition would run from March 22 to May 8.

    For PSHS, that season would include boys’ soccer and volleyball.

    Season D, also proposed to be seven weeks, would begin with practices on May 3 and competition would run from May 10 to June 26.

    For PSHS, Season D would include baseball, track and field, and girls’ soccer.