With the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Bowser said all teachers and staff at school and child-care facilities will be eligible to preregister for a vaccine appointment next week. Most 16- and 17-year-old D.C. residents with a qualifying medical condition also can preregister for a vaccination.
Could the date change?
Yes. March 15 is the tentative start date for the “re-engagement” of sports, which allows for individual conditioning. If coronavirus cases spike before then, Bowser could push back that date.
Also, this week the D.C. Council extended D.C.’s public health emergency to May 20. It was previously set to end March 17.
“Let me just be perfectly candid that we hope on March 15 that this plan moves forward,” Bowser said Thursday. “It has been made very clear to us from schools and parents that they want some planning time, and we’re being as helpful as we can with that.”
What sports would be played?
The D.C. State Athletic Association is planning to hold a spring sports season, which includes baseball, softball, outdoor track and field, tennis and lacrosse.
While the DCSAA canceled its fall and winter sports seasons in January, DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said those teams can begin conditioning when sports return. If spring sports teams play games, Ray said, fall and winter sports teams could scrimmage other D.C. schools.
“We want kids back on the fields, the courts, the pools and other courts,” Ray said. “But for us all along it’s been about spring sports — trying to salvage and save that season simply because they lost their season last year.”
How will teams proceed with practices?
If D.C. sports return, they will resume in stages. First, teams will participate in individual conditioning. After that, squads will be allowed to train without contact. The third stage is for teams to hold practices with moderate contact.
Progressing from each stage to the next will depend on the number of D.C.’s coronavirus cases and the health department’s guidance on the safety of practices, Ray said.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to ramp up to the next stage.
Will D.C. schools have competitions this school year?
Maybe. The D.C. health department may allow competitions only if coronavirus cases continue to decrease. Teams must first get through the three stages of practicing without a spike in cases.
If competitions are allowed, Ray said, the DCSAA will hold state championships for spring sports.
“You look at social media ― everybody’s ready to play,” Ray said. “I don’t think we’re going to jump into competitions immediately. We’re not just going to flip the switch on and be full throttle.”
What are the protocols the DCSAA is putting together?
During the first two stages of practices, the DCSAA would like athletes not to share or touch the same equipment or balls, according to protocol guidelines the association sent the D.C. health department for approval. These workouts would be voluntary.
No more than 10 student-athletes and coaches can gather at the same venue during the individual conditioning stage, the DCSAA proposed. These numbers would increase as stages progress. The same athletes should train together weekly, the DCSAA proposed, as opposed to mixing the groups and increasing the risk of exposure.
During all stages, the DCSAA proposed, coaches must screen athletes daily for symptoms and take their temperature. Anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus, as well as anyone who had been around them, will need to isolate or quarantine for at least 14 days, the DCSAA proposed.
Which states are playing sports?
All 50 states are allowing high school sports in some capacity. Many Maryland counties began fall sports practices in the past few weeks, while Virginia is in the midst of its fall sports season after holding a condensed winter sports season.
Still, some cities in some states, such as New York, are not permitting sports.
“Nobody likes to be last,” Ray said. “There are certain parameters we’re bound by. Our kids live in a high-density area in multigenerational houses. So it’s been tough.”
What do local coaches think?
Normally, Wilson softball coach David Thompson has about a month to file through athletes’ paperwork and prepare facilities for the season. But now, Thompson has 10 days to prepare; he sent an email to his players Friday morning requesting they submit their paperwork.
Thompson is optimistic that a season will occur, but he’s unsure what his team’s schedule will look like. Participation is low for softball in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association, and he fears the coronavirus will prevent some schools from fielding teams. Thompson feels fortunate his team has the resources to begin conditioning right away, but some teams may still need to obtain a thermometer gun.
Over the next 10 days, Thompson will prepare outdoor batting cages and sanitize his team’s dugout and equipment.
“I’m willing to work to make it happen,” he said. “Our young people deserve that. They have the right to that.”
Sidwell Friends tennis coach Logan West is also hopeful that a season will occur, especially because spring sports are played outside.
“A sport like tennis [allows] for plenty of physical distancing,” West said. “I’m hopeful all of our student-athletes can get the opportunity to compete after having their season unfortunately canceled due to the pandemic right at the start of the season last year.”