State of Washington modifies COVID testing requirements for high-contact sports
WALLA WALLA – Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal notified school leaders today the Washington State Department of Health is modifying COVID-19 testing requirement for high-contact sports.
“Effective immediately, in support of our goal to support in-person learning and in order to maximize constrained COVID testing supplies for symptomatic students and staff as well as close contacts participating in Test-to-Stay or returning from quarantine, DOH is changing the testing frequency for high-contact sports,” said Reykdal in his correspondence.
Schools/districts will now be required to:
• Test high-contact sport athletes (basketball, wrestling and cheer) the day of competition. Mandatory screening testing of asymptomatic athletes three times a week is no longer required.
• A student-athlete does not need to test if they have tested positive and recovered from COVID in the last 90 days. Ensure universal masking of all athletes during all practices/training for these high-risk sports.
• Universal masking of all athletes during practices/trainings will be required, but not during competitions. Coaches, trainers, and staff will not be required to be tested but must wear masks in all practices/training AND competitions.
“This is a welcomed shift in guidance for many, but it is imperative that schools stay focused on continuing mask wearing, distancing where possible, and supporting vaccinations and getting boosted during this time of extremely high community transmission,” said Reykdal. “Vaccination offers the strongest protection against severe disease, including the need for hospitalization when break through cases occur.”
Reykdal reported the Omicron experience is evolving with cases peaking in some parts of the state, and still rapidly rising in others.
“However, the biggest concern in our state right now is that hospitals across the state – east, west, urban, and rural – are operating near, at, or above capacity,” said Reykdal. “What might be a mild illness for a student-athlete could be serious or even life threatening if transmitted to a child or adult with chronic conditions. The health care system is so stressed there are impacts to health that go beyond COVID-19. Washingtonians currently are unable to have important but scheduled medical procedures. Continuing mitigation measures can help protect the most vulnerable in our community, protect our healthcare system, and keep our schools open and safer for all.”
Walla Walla Public Schools Health Services Director Amy Ruff coordinates testing for the school district and reports the district will implement the changes immediately.