Governor Justice’s last-minute plan to try to allow football games (and other extra-curricular activities) this weekend in three counties that saw an increase in Covid-19 cases was a misstep.
The games in Kanawha, Logan and Fayette Counties were shut down after the number of positives pushed them into the orange zone of the state’s metric that determines whether schools can open and have events.
Justice announced a rapid testing program for student athletes, coaches and staff. If all the tests were negative, the games could be played. The Governor pitched it as a this-week-only plan.
However, all three counties opted out within hours. The stated reasons, both public and private, varied.
Kanawha County School Superintendent Tom Williams said he appreciated the Governor’s offer, “but we’ve collectively decided that our focus should be on making sure that we do everything in our power to get students back to school.”
In other words, let teachers and staff focus on the top priority of educating children and do not throw in a giant athletic curveball this week.
It was also suggested that these counties may have been uncomfortable with being treated differently from every other county.
In addition, there was the theory that testing would have a potential downside. More testing could mean more positives and that might impact the athletic programs for a longer period, as well as the planned opening of school next week.
MetroNews’ Joe Brocato reported that some coaches were concerned that just one positive—even a false positive—could sideline their program for two to three weeks rather than just one weekend.
Sticking with the current metric gives teams in these three counties a chance to reschedule this weekend’s missed game on Labor Day Monday, if their county drops back down into the yellow or green category when the updated data are released Saturday night.
West Virginia Covid-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh likes to call the state’s ongoing struggle with the pandemic the hammer and the dance. That is borrowed from Tomas Pueyo, who dubbed the lockdown as “the hammer” and the reopening “the dance.”
We are in “the dance” phase now. “It is a much more fluid phase,” Pueyo said. “You might have outbreaks, so you need to react to that. It’s much more technical, too.”
In short, coping with the pandemic is complicated, and with the planned reopening of school next week and the scheduled football games and other extracurricular activities, the dance in West Virginia is about to get a lot more complex with frequent missteps.