Winter sports can begin Feb. 14

Brad Davis/The Register-HeraldWoodrow Wilson's Olivia Ziolkowski applauds toward fans and family in the stands after the Lady Flying Eagles defeated Morgantown to advance in the girls state basketball tournament March 11, 2020, in Charleston.

Valentine's Day will bring out the love in a lot of people in West Virginia.

Gov. Jim Justice announced during his Monday press briefing that winter high school sports will be permitted to resume or begin practice on Feb. 14. Swim and girls basketball teams had already begun practice when Justice made his original announcement in November that winter sports were being delayed until Jan. 11. Wrestling and boys basketball teams had yet to start practice.

He pushed the Jan. 11 target to March 1 before the start of the new year, but did not specify that date as a start for practice or games.

That answer came Monday — games can officially begin on Wednesday, March 3. That gives teams 16 days to get in the required 14 practices before playing their first game. That explains Sundays being permissible practice days — Feb. 14 falls on a Sunday.

Of course, all of that remains contingent on whether students are back to in-person instruction, a goal for which Justice has set for Jan. 19. However, the much-maligned Covid-19 metrics map that was used all through fall sports and ultimately led to the cancellation of the Super Six football championships, apparently won't be nearly as persuasive in the future.

The map will only be taken into account for counties in the red, which represents the highest levels of the coronavirus. Schools in red counties will not be permitted to practice or play. Teams in orange counties will be unaffected.

The map will not be used for middle schools.

State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said that "medical data would say that older students, adult size students, and particularly adult size students on sports teams are risks to spread Covid-19."

"We know that as students become adult size and have gone through puberty, their risk of spreading Covid-19 becomes like an adult," Marsh said. "We've talked a lot about younger students, 15 and under, and particularly pre-pubertal students, tend to have a much lower risk of catching Covid-19 and spreading it. One of the ideas that's been circulated before the lack of the ability to spread Covid-19 is that their airways are smaller and not as powerful when they cough, so they don't generate the droplets and the aerosols like adult size people do.

"We know from our own epidemiology studies that we have certainly seen outbreaks and transmission between people on sports teams, particularly high school level sports teams, and have seen very little spread ... in the classroom. And when you can wear masks all the time and stay somewhat distanced ... then we don't see the transmission."

An important development on Monday was Justice's announcement that he is considering changing the map to expand the levels that would designate counties as orange. That would in turn raise the lowest level considered for red. Justice said that announcement will be made Wednesday.

Email: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber

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