It was only a matter of time before the high school athletics would follow suit after the professional sports leagues were quick to act when it came to shutting down their seasons or postponing them until further notice. Wednesday, March 11, was a dark day for the NBA and the NHL when they canceled the remainder of their season, and by the next day, things got darker for collegiate and many other professional sports as one-by-one the notice of sporting events nationwide were put on hold, some indefinitely for the 2020 season. Local school districts started announcing as of Thursday, March 13, that they have postponed or canceled high school athletic events because of concerns regarding the new coronavirus.
Most postponements or cancellations recently had been weather-related, but a week into a world where COVID-19 quarantines have taken over, the already delayed professional sports seasons in North America could be on hiatus for significantly longer than first planned, which means high school seasons are in jeopardy. Federal officials said earlier this week that they recommend all in-person events involving 50 people or more be called off for the next eight weeks. That’s twice as long as the 30-day shutdowns that the NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer decided to put into place last week in response to the global coronavirus pandemic that has already made a deep impact on the U.S. financial markets and has been blamed for at least 64 deaths in this country.
Major League Baseball also was going with what essentially was a 30-day shutdown after canceling the rest of spring training and pushing back the start of regular season play for two weeks; Opening Day was to have been March 26. But new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Sunday night, March 15, seem to suggest that sports in this country could for all intents and purposes be gone until May, if not later.
As of this week, all local school districts with sports programs have postponed their athletic events through the end of March, while districts like the Val Verde and Hemet Unified school districts are canceling sporting events. One plus is that spring break for many schools falls right in line with the scheduling of all these changes. At this point, all area athletic directors are in communication with league partners and are working on a plan for events in April and beyond. The Murrieta Valley District, which covers 18 schools released information that also stated all use of the city’s Civic Center have been suspended until further notice.
“We deeply respect the work and dedication our students, staff, and families give to our extra-curricular activities, athletics and events,” according to the release from Murrieta Valley Unified School District. “We sincerely apologize for having to modify, postpone, and in some cases, cancel these extracurricular activities.”
The Temecula Valley Unified School District said, “In accordance with guidance from the California state governor and RUHS-PH, all TVUSD schools are postponing/canceling nonessential activities outside of regularly scheduled school hours. This includes all civic center use, extracurricular activities, events, athletic practices and competitions. The timeframe this is to be in effect is March 12 through April 5, 2020.”
The actual order from Riverside University Health Systems-Public Health is through April 30. The school district said they will provide updated guidance before student return from spring break.
“Our top priority continues to be the health and safety of our students and staff, and we take this responsibility seriously,” Tim Ritter, superintendent of Temecula Valley Unified School District, said. “Families, thank you for your partnership during this communitywide concern. Our main goals are to focus on student learning and health while keeping you informed.”
Rob Wigod, commissioner of athletics for the CIF Southern Section said, “We are too large of an entity, both by number of schools and by geographic area, to have a “one size fits all” response to this virus. We believe the important decisions regarding school closures, canceling/postponing athletic events, etc., should be made by local schools and school districts in concert with their local and state health officials and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. This is the most efficient plan of action going forward and we have full confidence in our local leaders to make the correct decisions in keeping their students and families safe.”
Though things are still up in the air when it comes to what will happen beyond the next few weeks with the future of the high school spring sports programs in the area, each district was consistent in saying that their administration will continue to be in regular communication with RUHS-PH as well as federal and state agencies, related to the rapidly changing COVID-19 novel coronavirus situation our state and nation are facing. Riverside University Health Systems, Public Health has issued several guidance toolkits as well as accurate, updated information at www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.