We have to commend school officials from three separate counties for sticking with state health metrics even when the governor who put them in place offered a work around.
Gov. Jim Justice offered a testing plan that would have, perhaps, allowed high school athletics to go forward in Kanawha, Fayette and Logan county schools — all three of which are disqualified from extracurricular activities because of the high number of COVID-19 cases. Instead, the three districts sent the message that they would rather focus on making sure students, teachers and service personnel are safe by the time school is scheduled to open, on Sept. 8, than scramble to allow for activities to start this Friday, when high school football kicks off.
Gov. Justice’s heart was in the right place with his plan to have every athlete and band member in the three counties tested for coronavirus this week, and, if there were no positive results, allowing them to play.
There were some good things about the plan. First, as the governor himself and other state public health officials mentioned, it would’ve meant more people tested. The governor and several state health and school administrators stated during a Monday coronavirus briefing that there is “no playbook” for this type of situation, so a mulligan for these counties in an effort to get them from “orange” on the state’s color-coded scale, down to yellow or green (in which all activities are allowed to resume) is understandable.
And while few gave voice to what would happen if schools did have athletes test positive (we assume it would have meant more cases added and restrictions tightened), it’s better to have that information now than after a potentially deadly virus makes the rounds at a school.
But the plan also came with some major questions. The absence of quick, reliable testing has been one of the biggest problems across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed nearly 200,000 American lives — now more than 200 of those in West Virginia. How would the state test every high school athlete and band member in a three-county area and have reliable results posted before Friday? It simply would, according to West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Bill Crouch. That answer wasn’t good enough and created some doubt about the veracity of the entire concept.
Also, although this is a unique situation where there must be some flexibility, had Justice’s plan gone forward, metrics for measuring cases in regard to reopening schools and allowing extracurricular activities would’ve been changed for the third time in three weeks. At some point, you have to use the system you’ve got, or there’s little purpose to the regulations and restrictions.
In the end, the safety of everyone has to take priority, and school officials judged that such a rapid attempt to get extracurricular activities up and running was unwise. They should be applauded for the decision.