MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The inevitable happened Monday morning — Monongalia County fell into the orange under the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources new coding system for COVID-19.
While Mon County is just over the orange distinction — 10.01 cases out of 100,000 population; yellow is 3.1-9.9 — this could be the beginning of the end of high school sports in the county.
Despite its current orange rating, Mon County was in the yellow during last Saturday night’s deadline, meaning it can play games this week. Soccer, volleyball and cross-country can begin Wednesday, while football is able to start Thursday.
The bad news is if Mon County remains in the orange by this Saturday’s deadline, no games will be played next week, and that cycle will continue every week until Mon County is able to get back in the yellow.
The only way games are not played this week is if Mon County dips into the red on any daily report, which is 25-plus positive cases per 100,000. Teams are still able to practice under orange, but all games and matches are canceled.
When the state and WVSSAC announced the color-coding system, it was almost guaranteed Mon County high school sports would be halted, likely sooner rather than later.
Over the last two weeks, nearly 26,000 students descended on Morgantown to begin classes at WVU — students from not only all over the country, but all over the world. While the university tried to put certain protocols in place, it was a pipe dream to expect students to be responsible and not do what many WVU students love to do. As a WVU alum, and I’m sure many of you are, as well, we know what that entails.
While many major universities that previously committed to on-campus classes have already gone virtual, WVU seems set on moving forward with keeping its students on campus. As a result, the community — and for the sake of this column, high school athletes — are going to pay the price.
While Mon County is very close to getting back in the yellow, there will need to be drastic changes for that number to drop rather than keep trending upward. Bars in the county reopening Monday after being close for a month and a half certainly will not help, nor will WVU students doing what they want when they want to do it.
Also Monday, Gov. Jim Justice announced athletes and coaches in three counties — Fayette, Logan and Kanawha — will be tested and if all tests per team come back negative, those teams are allowed to play. Those three counties were the only three in the orange at last Saturday’s deadline.
Sounds like a fair deal, right? If none of the athlete or coaches are positive despite county outbreaks, play on. Good news for Mon County, right?
Well, not really. Justice later said this is “a one-time deal. We don’t have the resources to go forward.”
So, counties that have struggled with COVID-19 outbreaks for weeks get an opportunity to reach around the rules in order to play, while counties like Mon will not have the same luxury next week if it’s still in the orange.
This is unfair and shameful for all of the hard-working athletes in our area, when rules just seem to be shifted to areas that seem convenient.
So here I am, making a plea to residents of Mon County — and yes, WVU students. We are in the midst of a pandemic. Our students and young people need you to be more responsible. It’s been the same song for nearly six months, wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands. These are not difficult requests, and quite honestly, I’m sick and tired of many acting like they are. Your actions are hurting others and not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.
This is a plea on behalf of all 14- to 18-year-old athletes in Mon County: Help us out or else we won’t have any games for the foreseeable future.