POCATELLO — It was announced Friday that Idaho had its first confirmed coronavirus case, but that did not trigger the cancellation of this spring’s high school sports state championships run by the Idaho High School Activities Association.
IHSAA Executive Director Ty Jones said having a confirmed COVID-19 case is “very significant,” though not surprising. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Friday that there is a coronavirus case in Ada County, and multiple other Idaho cases were reported Saturday.
“Common sense tells you it was just a matter of time before every state had a confirmed case,” Jones said on Friday. “So we’ll take a look at what steps we need to do to make sure schools have the proper information.”
Jones said the association’s main focus is its remaining winter state championship events for cheer, dance and debate – which were all scheduled for this month and postponed Thursday until further notice because of the IHSAA’s concern regarding the coronavirus.
The IHSAA hosts state competitions for five activities in the spring: speech, golf, softball, tennis and track and field. The IHSAA does not run baseball’s state tournaments.
Every spring activity, including baseball, is scheduled to have its state tournament on the week of May 11, except for speech which is held April 17-18.
Jones said plans for the cheer, dance and debate state championship events will be top focus in a regularly-scheduled meeting Monday morning with IHSAA assistant directors Julie Hammons and Mike Federico.
Jones said that during Monday’s meeting, there will be no final decision made on whether state tournaments will be canceled, and deadlines have not been set for any decisions.
“We’re still far out from our (spring) state tournaments right now. We’re still focusing on our debate, cheer and dance,” Jones said. “But we’re still trying to see if there’s some way that we could potentially – as we move forward – hold those at a later date. But the problem with that is as this continues to spread or get worse, it becomes harder and harder to see that things are clearing up for us.”
Jones said the meeting will also consider trigger points for canceling or adjusting the school year’s remaining state tournaments. Those trigger points could include the number of reported Idaho COVID-19 cases. As of now, Jones said there is one definitive way every IHSAA state tournament would be canceled – if it was ordered to by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare or the state government.
Jones said coronavirus has been an ongoing subject matter for more than three weeks, including before the girls basketball state tournaments that took place Feb. 20-22. He said the IHSAA has spoken with Idaho State Department of Education, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the National Federation of State High School Associations and local school districts, among others.
“This is uncharted territory for literally every state association in the nation,” Jones said. “We’ve lived on the phone the last three days, as we should. … It’s important to our kids, it’s important to our schools and it’s definitely extremely important to us.”
Wyoming’s remaining state basketball tournaments were canceled this weekend by a health official from Natrona County, where the events were hosted. Montana’s high school basketball tournaments were suspended Friday night.
The Idaho high school spring sports state championships remain two months away, but the NCAA has already canceled its spring national championships even though those run through June.
Locally, the District 5 senior all-star basketball games scheduled for Monday at Pocatello High School were canceled, marking the first time a high school sporting event in Pocatello has been canceled because of COVID-19.
It was the result of guidelines set by Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25, which announced Friday that it will “discontinue all nonessential school assemblies and limit mass gatherings to 250 participants until further notice.”
It is Jones’ call on cancelling the IHSAA state tournaments, though he downplayed his power and said he will make a decision based on the full advisement of the IHSAA board of directors.
“We’re very aware that kids and coaches are working towards an end goal, which is generally a state tournament,” Jones said. “That being said, we’re definitely going to put their health and safety first.”