Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that the Oregon Health Authority is revising its guidance for outdoor sports as well as its exemption for college sports.
In other words, there is now a path for high school football to return to the field, as well as other prep sports and lower division college sports.
Beginning this week, outdoor contact sports can resume with teams asked to follow the COVID-19 health and safety protocols already put in place by their respective county.
Teams in low or moderate risk counties are clear to play right away. Teams in high-risk or extreme-risk counties will have to “opt in” to the football season by adding protocols such as on-site testing for symptomatic individuals, contact-tracing information, isolation and quarantine procedures, and a waiver identifying health and safety risks.
Previous coverage:High school football still waiting for state clearance
Lane is currently an extreme-risk county. As is Marion.
“There are things that we can come up with and be creative as a community now that we have some guidance and some direction of what we’re allowed to do,” Churchill football coach AJ Robinson said. “Now the door is open, and that’s good.”
There was still plenty of confusion locally about Gov. Brown’s announcement and how and who clears teams in extreme risk counties to return to the field.
Even the OSAA announced on Twitter it was seeking more clarification about the opting-in process.
South Eugene athletic director and boys basketball coach Dave Hancock assumed the decision to opt-in for Eugene’s four public high schools would come from the 4J School District.
“It’s not up to individual schools,” Hancock said. “It’s up to the district.”
Calls to both 4J and Springfield school districts were not returned by late afternoon Wednesday.
At Springfield’s Thurston High School, athletic director and football coach Justin Starck said he was, “still trying to process this. There’s so many factors in play that we need to assess how it impacts us. … Counties that are in high or extreme, we have a lot of work to do.”
Schools in extreme and high-risk counties wanting to opt in must also have at least limited in-person instruction occurring or a plan in place for hybrid instruction this school year.
Eugene, Springfield and Bethel school districts all meet that standard.
Season 2 for the Oregon School Activities Association was scheduled to start Monday with the first day of football practice. Most schools have been conducting socially distant conditioning practices as they awaited a decision by Brown. High school soccer and cross country were already cleared to return with their start date set for Feb. 22.
Indoor contact sports like volleyball and basketball are still prohibited in all high- and extreme-risk counties. There have been no high school sports in Oregon since state basketball tournaments were canceled in mid-March 2020. Until Wednesday’s decision, Oregon and California were the only two states that neither played a high school football season this school year nor had a plan to play.
“To all of Oregon’s high school athletes: I am asking you to now be leaders in your communities,” Brown said Wednesday. “We’ve given you a chance to play, but with that opportunity comes great responsibility. If COVID-19 numbers spike, we may have to shut down contact sports again. When you are off the field, set the example for your peers: Wear a mask, maintain physical distance, and avoid social gatherings.”
Brown also said that if small colleges like NAIA Bushnell University in Eugene, and Lane Community College, want to return in full, they have to meet the same standards as Oregon’s Division I programs in regards to regular testing, plans for contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, and health and safety protocols for practices and games.
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