The Lincoln County School District announced Wednesday its schools opted to participate in Season 4 interscholastic activities, which include swimming, basketball and wrestling, considered by the Oregon Health Authority as indoor full-contact sports. Season 4 begins May 10.

NEWPORT — In a news release issued Wednesday, April 28, by Kristin Bigler, Lincoln County School District communications specialist, the district announced it has opted to allow high school student-athletes to compete in an abbreviated season of full-contact indoor sports, which includes basketball, swimming and wrestling.

“LCSD will be completing the ‘opt-in’ process required to participate in Season 4, indoor, full-contact activities,” the release reads. “This opt-in requires offering onsite testing to those student-athletes, coaches, management staff, or volunteers who are symptomatic or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.”

That followed an April 20 announcement from Gov. Kate Brown’s office, revising COVID-19 metric’s to allow youth participation in what the Oregon Health Authority deems are full-contact indoor sports.

“Recognizing the importance of athletics for the physical and mental health of Oregon’s youth athletes and at the direction of the governor’s office, we’ve updated Oregon’s metrics for allowing the resumption of indoor full-contact sports, effective April 23,” OHA posted last week on its Twitter feed. “Sports organizations are required to follow health and safety measures for indoor full-contact sports to lessen the risk of COVID-19 infection.”

Season 4 prep sports teams will hold their first practices of the campaign on May 10, and regular season interscholastic Season 4 events run through the week ending June 19, with the following week left open for postseason competitions, such as district or state championship events.

“Throughout Seasons 1, 2, and 3, we have established on-campus academic education for all students, implemented sound contact tracing procedures, and have established quarantine and isolation practices,” said Assistant Superintendent Susan Van Liew. “District nurses feel confident in their ability to add the final step of offering onsite testing for those impacted,”

Because Lincoln County is currently in the state’s “high risk” for COVID-19 spread, the district could not make a firm statement regarding the potential allowance for spectators to attend Season 4 interscholastic competitions. If the season were to begin today, spectators would be forbidden from attending Lincoln County School District home contests.

“Furthermore, information about Season 4 spectator regulations will come as county risk levels change,” the school’s district’s release reads. “Due to capacity limits outlined in Sector Guidance, spectators will not be allowed while Lincoln County is in high or extreme county risk levels.”

More protocol changes

Following public scrutiny regarding the safety of student-athletes mandated by the state to wear COVID-19 prevention face coverings while competing in distance running events during prep track and field competitions, the OHA and Brown on Monday suspended the state’s mask rules for those participating in outdoor non-contact sports. Student-athletes competing in track and field, golf and tennis are now allowed to remove face coverings while competing if able to maintain six feet of distance from other competitors.

“On Monday, the Oregon Health Authority and Gov. Brown modified the mask mandate to allow student-athletes directly competing in an outdoor, non-contact event to remove their mask while actively participating in direct competition,” Majalise Tolan, LCSD athletic director, said in the district release. “For Lincoln County, this rule change applies only to track and field and golf, as they are the only sports designated as non-contact,”

Tolan further clarified that the new health guidance from the state earlier this week has no affect on Season 3 sports other than track and field, which for LCSD student-athletes includes softball, baseball and golf.

“For spectators, coaches and all other Season 3 sports, nothing changed to the mask mandate,” Tolan said. “An addendum clarifying the rule that included OSAA’s press release was also sent to families of student-athletes participating in the impacted activities.”

The statewide face mask rule change came on the heels of a scary incident April 23 involving a masked high school student-athlete running for the Summit High School track and field team. According to the Oregonian/, junior Maggie Williams collapsed, face first, just three meters shy of finishing the 800-meter run in an effort to break the school record.

At the time, Oregon was the only state to require distance runners to compete with a protective face covering, and Summit head coach Dan Turnbull blasted authorities for what he says was a mandate that placed the safety of student-athletes in peril.

“I’ve been doing this for 31 years; I’ve never seen anybody basically lose consciousness,” Turnbull told the Oregonian/ “I’ve never seen that in the way it happened with Maggie.”

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