(Olympia, WA) The State Department of Health did not have good news for state High School athletes hoping to get back to playing as soon as possible when they released this week’s Covid-19 update. For moderate and outdoor high risk sports to begin competition the health region must be in phase 2 of the Governor’s Healthy Washington plan. To achieve that 4 metrics must be met. Last week half of the 8 health regions had hit 3 of 4 of the metrics, 3 had 2 of 4 and 1 had just 1 of the 4.

This week none of the regions had more than 2 targets met. 6 of 8 had 2 and the other 2 regions had 1. The State Health Department collects the data and releases it every Friday. The 4 metrics are:

  1. Trend in 14-day rate of new cases must be -10% or more
  2. Trend in 14-day rate of new hospital admissions must be -10% or more
  3. Average 7-day percent of occupancy of ICU staffed beds must be less than 90%
  4. 7-day percent of positive tests must be less than 10% 

Last week the West region was closest missing phase 2 by just 3% in the 14-day trend of hospitalizations. The other regions that were within 1 and fell back were the Puget Sound, East and Northwest. The region that had 2 last week and dropped back to 1 was the South Central. We break down each region below along with the official chart.

Although bad news, this does not mean sports will still not begin on February 1st for some leagues. The low risk sports can compete in phase 1 of the Governor’s plan so Cross Country, Tennis and Golf will all begin on time for those leagues participating in those sports and although a moderate risk sport and indoors, due to the unique setting girls swimming can also compete in phase 1 and will start on time for those leagues with girls swimming.

The sports that can continue to practice with some restrictions but must wait for phase 2 before they can play include Football, Girls Soccer and Boys 2b/1b soccer, Volleyball and Slowpitch. Schools for the most part are restricting all competition to their health region to minimize any potential waiting period for other health regions to catch up and allow play to begin as soon as cleared. This has shuffled the look of some of the leagues. Leagues may also differ from the WIAA template and offer any sport that is allowed to compete in each phase to be played at any time. The best thing to do is to contact your school to see which league they are playing in for 2021 and for their schedules.

Also, keep in mind once a health region qualifies for phase 2 the dynamics of staying in that phase change as well. Instead of hitting all 4 metrics they need to get 3 of 4 and maintaining their current level counts as success so in other words the 10% decline is not longer needed but 0% or any decline will keep a region in phase 2.

Health Region Updates

Puget Sound (Snohomish, King & Pierce counties): Last week 3 of 4 metrics achieved missing the 14-day trend in hospital with -3% and needing -10%. This week the 2 targets hit were ICU Occupancy and Percent Positivity. They did better on hospital admission missing by just 1% at -9% but backtracked in 14-day trend in news cases from -13% to +23%.

West (Thurston, Grays Harbor, Pacific & Lewis counties): Last week 3 of 4 metrics achieved missing the 14-day trend in hospital with -7% and needing -10%. This week the 2 targets hit were ICU Occupancy and Percent Positivity. They dropped on hospital admission going from -7% to +14% and backtracked in 14-day trend in news cases from -30% to -8%.

East (Spokane, Whitman, Pend Orielle, Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, Adams, Garfield and Asotin counties): Last week 3 of 4 metrics achieved missing the 7-day positive test rates with 17% and needing less than 10%. This week the 2 targets hit were the hospital admissions rate and ICU Occupancy. The positivity rate increased from 17-21% and the 14-day trend in new cases jumped from -26% to +12%.

Northwest (Kitsap, Mason, Jefferson and Clallam counties): Last week 3 of 4 metrics achieved missing the 14-day trend in hospital with -114% and needing -10%. This week the 2 targets hit were ICU Occupancy and Percent Positivity. They did better on hospital admission dropping from that whopping -114% to -44% a 70% decline so the number going in the right direction.  They fell behind in the 14-day new cases trend going from -26% to +24%. 

North (Whatcom, Skagit & San Juan counties): Last week had 2 of 4 metrics hitting both 7-day targets of ICU beds and percent of positive tests. They missed the 2 14-day metrics of the rate of new cases with -3% but needing -10% and new hospital admissions with +61% and needing -10%. This week they remained good on the 7-day measures while the rate of new cases skyrocketed from -3% to +89% and the new hospital admissions actually dropped by 11% from 61 to 50%.

North Central (Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas & Grant counties): Last week hit 2 of 4 and were both the 14-day metrics while missing the 7-day trends. This week they had a mixed bag hitting 2 targets, hospital admissions although they lost ground still stayed below -10% going from -50% to -12% and hitting the ICU occupancy dropping from 90% to 84%. The missed ones were 14-day trend in new cases from -26% to -1% and the positive test rate from +12% to +14% and needing to get to less than 10%.

South Central  (Yakima, Kittitas, Benton, Columbia & Walla Walla counties): Last week had reached 2 of the goals and were good on the 14-day trends in new cases and hospital admission and missed on both the 7-day trend metrics. This week fell further behind with just 1 successful benchmark hitting the 14-day trend in hospital admissions and improving from -22% to -36%. The dropped out of the 14-day new case trend going from -12% to +9%. The South Central missed both 7-day trends, the ICU beds just missed went from 91% to 90% and need to get below 90% so they are right there and the 7-day positive rate went up a bit from 19% to 24% and must be below 10%.

Southwest (Cowlitz, Clark, Wahkiakum, Skamania and Klickitat counties): SW hit only 1 last week they were good in the ICU beds at 70% and actually dropped further this week in that category to 54%. In the 14-day new case trend last week they were -5% and that spiked to +44% this week. Hospital admissions also jumped from 6% to 36% and the 7-day trend of positive tests also increased but not much from 18% to 24%.

As you can see there were some wild swings and just as fast as things can get worse they also seem can get better. There is still another week for Health Regions to try and get to phase 2 prior to February 1. If leagues were planning on starting February 1 but don’t hit the numbers girls soccer and volleyball could potentially use the phase 1 practices toward the minimum required to start if their region hits phase 2 the following week.

WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman tells ESN that Football would not. “due to the physicality of football, teams will still need to get their 3 non-pad full practices in which can not be done in pods, before they start practices with pads. Football is unique due to the physical nature of it that we can not skip any of the steps that we may be able to be more flexible with other sports.”

Hoffman added that the next big benchmark will be around February 20, if a majority or all regions are still not in phase 2 you could see another shift in the schedule going to a 2 season approach. Hoffman says, “if we do have to take that road it will really be up to the leagues to prioritize which sports and how to schedule them.” He says, “some leagues are intent on protecting Spring sports first because those are the sports that were all cancelled last year.” “The WIAA will remain in support of what each league wants to do and what works best for them as our focus remains simply to get kids out playing again as quickly as possible.”

The current numbers from the health department are still reflecting data from right after Christmas and through New Year’s so there is expectation over the next couple of weeks of positive shiftsw in the data as it catches up. There is hope that the numbers will get better dramatically and in a hurry. Again, one example of big swings in the numbers is the Northwest Region’s hospital admissions rate which was 114% last week and this week, still too high but dropped 70% to 44%. 

All sports in all risk levels remain able to do some kind of practice from indoor high risk where they can do personal training to the low risk sports that can proceed full steam ahead so Hoffman remains hopeful that more progress will continue to be made over the next few weeks.

Latest Metric Chart







By paulb

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