High School basketball players were the first athletes to experience the affect of COVID-19 in March. Now, they will once again feel it with novel coronavirus cases spiking across the nation.
Last season was cut short on the eve of the state semifinals as COVID-19 first hit Colorado. Spring sports also would be canceled.
The Colorado High School Activities Association worked hard to provide a shortened fall season for boys golf, tennis and football as well as girls softball. But last weekend’s state championship football games will be the last CHSAA competitions until at least February.
On Monday, CHSAA announced Season B sports of basketball, skiing, wrestling, hockey, girls swimming and diving and spirit will start no sooner than Feb. 1 with practices to begin Jan. 25.
Previously, CHSAA had aimed to start those activities with practices on Jan. 4 and competition to start Jan. 7. The decision to postpone comes as the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment would not issue variances to CHSAA to its public health orders to allow for larger indoor gatherings.
“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,” CDPHE executive director Jill Hunsaker Ryan wrote in a letter to CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green. “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.
“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.”
La Plata County is in Level Red, meaning indoor sports teams also cannot gather in full capacity for practices.
CHSAA said it would meet with the CDPHE and Gov. Jared Polis’ COVID Response Team in mid-January to work on variances that would allow winter sports to begin.
The proposed Season B will now be seven weeks with competition to be held Feb. 1 through March 20. That means Seasons C and D also will be modified to accommodate the change so multi-sport athletes have the chance to compete in all of their activities.
Season C, which offers boys soccer, field hockey, volleyball, gymnastics and unified bowling would be held for seven weeks from March 22 to May 8.
Additionally, the offered spring football season for teams that opted out of the fall season would be held March 15 for a six-week regular season and three weeks of playoffs with championships to be held May 15. In Southwest Colorado, only Montezuma-Cortez opted for a spring season instead of fall.
Season D would begin May 10 with competitions held through June 26, a month past normal high school graduation dates. That will offer baseball, lacrosse, track and field, boys swimming, boys volleyball and girls soccer.
Additionally, girls golf will be held across 10 weeks from April 19 to June 22, while girls tennis will be held April 26 through June 12. Those sports will be given the same length of schedule as the boys seasons were given in the fall.