PORTLAND (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that some outdoor contact sports, including high school football, can resume this week.
In addition, the Oregon Health Authority reported data shows a “sharp decrease” in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the previous week.
“This has been a difficult year for Oregon’s youth athletes and, as our COVID-19 numbers have dropped, I have been committed to working with our health experts to reevaluate our protocols for sports,” Brown said. “School sports play an important role in fostering students’ mental, emotional, and physical health. We will proceed with caution, to ensure that teams are following health and safety precautions to protect our athletes, their families, and their communities.”
Health and safety protocols for school sports teams are determined based on the counties risk level.
In “lower risk” and “moderate risk” counties, practices and games for outdoor contact sports can resume. In “high risk” and “extreme risk” counties, where COVID-19 remains more widespread, schools and other sports organizations can opt-in to resuming outdoor contact sports with additional protocols in place; On-site COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals, contact information for contact tracing and a waiver identifying health and safety risks and a commitment to isolation and quarantine if exposed to COVID-19.
In addition schools in “high risk” and “extreme risk” counties must also have at least limited in-person instruction occurring, “with the goal of achieving hybrid or full in-person instruction for students this school year,” the governor’s office said in a press release.
Schools and sports organizations in “high risk” and “extreme risk” counties that do not opt in and implement the protocols and requirements will continue to be limited to non-contact sports, practices and games.
Indoor contact sports are still banned.
“To all of Oregon’s high school athletes: I am asking you now to be leaders in your communities,” Brown said. “We’ve given you the chance to play, but with that opportunity comes great responsibility. If COVID-19 numbers spike, we may have to shut down contact sports again.”
Brown said that during the past year she has received many emails from athletes, coaches and parents, asking for sports to resume.
“I am challenging you now to devote your energy to making sure in-person academics can resume for your kids, too,” Brown said. “If our school gyms, fields, and weight rooms are to reopen, we owe it to Oregon’s children to make sure our classrooms, libraries, and science labs fully reopen as well.”
In addition, as COVID-19 cases in the state decrease, Brown said the Oregon Health Authority will review and update the exemption for college sports––allowing Division 2, Division 3, and NAIA schools to submit health and safety plans to resume college athletics.
The health authority reported 555 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 148,475. The death toll is 2,044.
Officials from the health authority said that the most recent weekly data shows cases have decreased.
During the week of Feb. 1, the health authority reported a 15% decrease of cases from the previous week and the lowest weekly total in three months.
New COVID-19 related hospitalizations similarly declined by 8% from the previous week. Virus-related deaths decreased to 66 — the lowest weekly total since mid-November.
Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.