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State updates testing requirements for indoor sports | Sports

Athletes, coaches, all team personnel now required to be tested three times per week amid virus outbreaks at December wrestling tournaments

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health released new COVID-19 safety guidelines for “high-contact indoor sports,” which includes required testing of all team personnel regardless of vaccination status and increased testing frequency.

In a press release on Dec. 17, the DOH released the new guidelines for high school wrestling, basketball, water polo and competitive cheer.

Athletes, coaches, trainers and support personnel must now be tested three times a week whether they are vaccinated or not, according to the release. One of these tests must also occur on the day of, or day prior, to competition.

These updated guidelines come on the heels of a “multi-school, multi-county outbreak” that were traced back to wrestling tournaments held on Dec. 4. Of the estimated 200 cases detected, three or more of the cases were of the omicron variant.

According to a DOH press release from Dec. 15, the outbreak occurred at wrestling tournaments in Lacey, Sumner, Puyallup and Yelm, WA. There were schools from 13 different counties in attendance, including Whatcom, and all occurred on Saturday, Dec. 4.

“Omicron is a game-changer, but we know layered prevention measures slow the spread of COVID-19 in sports, schools, and communities,” Lacy Fehrenbach, the DOH’s deputy secretary for the COVID-19 response, said in the Dec. 17 release. “Please get vaccinated, boosted, wear a well-fitting mask, and maintain your distance to help our kids stay healthy, stay in the game, and stay in school.”

The first case of the omicron variant in Whatcom County was reported on Dec. 10, according to the Whatcom County Health Department’s COVID-19 Data Report from Dec. 16.

Also in the Dec. 17 release, the DOH listed reminders of requirements already in place for K-12 sporting events, including mask wearing by all spectators with respective distancing from others.  Referees and athletes must also wear masks when not actively competing/officiating.

“Vaccinations, in addition to testing and masking, will help keep our athletes healthy and allow everyone to continue to enjoy sporting events while also limiting the spread of disease,” Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, chief science officer, said in the Dec. 17 release. “Getting a booster will make protection against the omicron variant even stronger. The booster vaccine is now available for everyone 16 years and older.”

Multiple upcoming boys and girls wrestling events have cancelled, including ones previously scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 18, that Whatcom County teams were slated to attend.