The PIAA has announced that the winter sports season will start on December 11th. However, the organization will have to figure out a way to keep everyone safe with a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state. COVID-19 is going to affect all of the sports in the state this upcoming winter, but the PIAA has come up with solutions to help prevent and solve some of the problems.
PIAA’s first big change to this winter sports season is to the swimming and diving teams, who will compete through virtual meets. These meets will be formatted where both teams would be in their respective pools at a designated time. The times of each race would be submitted into a shared spreadsheet, supervised by a PIAA official, by a team representative. There will be at least one PIAA official at each location to ensure there is no cheating. Swimming and diving have been split up this way because it is impossible to wear the required cloth facial covering in the pool while swimming. When the swimmers and divers are not swimming but still in the pool area, they will have to wear masks. There will also be no spectators at any of the meets. As an overall goal, virtual meets will hopefully reduce the spread of the coronavirus, while still allowing kids to compete this winter.
The same idea will be used in the competitive cheer season. Teams will compete in their respective gymnasiums while judges and PIAA officials observe. The judges will make their scoring decisions and put them in the shared spreadsheet where the winner will be determined by the PIAA official. Masks will be worn at all times by the cheerleaders, and there will be no spectators allowed in the gymnasiums.
Basketball has also had changes to the layout of the season. All players, coaches, and referees must abide by the Department of Health's (DOH) mask mandate. This mandate says that you must wear a mask if you are inside a building with people who are not your immediate family members. Everyone inside must be wearing a mask unless you fall under an exception in Section 3 of the DOH order. Some of these exceptions include, “if wearing a mask would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability.”
Another implemented change instructs against pregame handshakes between teammates, and no post game handshakes between opposing players anymore. This is to ensure that the virus does not spread from town to town.
The final change tells that games could be postponed if a team receives a positive COVID-19 test from either a player or a coach. This would suspend all team activity for 14 days so everyone can quarantine.
The recent increase in COVID-19 cases is cause for concern. With around 11,000 new cases on December 4th, the PIAA is going to do their best to limit the spread of coronavirus while also giving student athletes a chance to play this winter.