As the new school year approaches against the backdrop of rising COVID-19 numbers across the state, the Washington State Department of Health released a set of safety measures for the upcoming school year, which will affect both athletes and adults come the fall sports season.
The measures come in the latest update to the DOH’s “K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-2022 School Year” packet, which came down Wednesday, and mostly cover guidelines for masks and COVID-19 screenings. As of now, the requirements are less strict than they were for most of the recent winter and spring seasons, but for certain sports, the new orders incentivize vaccinations for athletes.
The main difference between rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated athletes comes for the high-contact indoor sports — basketball and wrestling. Come the winter, vaccinated hoopsters and wrestlers won’t have to wear masks while competing. Unvaccinated players will be made to choose between wearing a mask during play or participating in screening tests twice a week during the season, as well as rapid antigen testing within 24 hours of every game.
If an athlete returns a positive test, the program will have to perform contact tracing, and all unvaccinated athletes, coaches, and personnel deemed to be close contacts should go into quarantine immediately. Vaccinated athletes and personnel will be tested within 3-5 days and mask up for two weeks, but won’t have to isolate unless they themselves test positive or develop symptoms.