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Right now, the winter sports teams are not even allowed to hold practice indoors

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - With COVID regulations, contact sports may not happen this winter. Even if Crook County is allowed to have contact sports like wrestling and basketball, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, with higher COVID statistics, may not, leaving Crook County with no regional opponents to face. Above, Brayden Duke, top, wrestles a Crescent Valley opponent last winter.

The Central Oregon version of OSAA Season 1 fall sports was nearly over when the governor announced a new executive order putting additional restrictions on the state of Oregon for the two-week period beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18 and ending Wednesday, Dec. 2.

With the new restrictions came guidance from the Oregon Health Authority that effectively stopped the fall sports season.

Teams played games on Tuesday, then had to stop all indoor practices on Wednesday. Outdoor teams were allowed to continue to practice, but with limits of just 50 people on all outdoor facilities, the Central Oregon schools elected to stop the final four days of the fall season 1.

Following the cancellations, different Central Oregon school districts adapted different rules for continuing practice.

The Bend-La Pine School District and the Madras School District both canceled all practices, while the Crook County School District and the Redmond School District both allowed outdoor practices to continue. Sisters and Culver were on slightly different competition schedules and had already finished their fall seasons.

With the two-week restrictions set to expire this Wednesday, the immediate question is will winter sports happen. That is a question that may not be easy to answer.

As of Sunday, only outdoor practices are being allowed. However, that may change for some school districts on Wednesday.

Even with outdoor practices allowed as of Sunday, full contact sports are still banned. Both basketball and wrestling are considered full contact.

"As soon as we are allowed indoors, we will go," said Crook County High School athletic director Rob Bonner on Sunday. "Until then, we will be running and lifting at the track a couple of days per week."

Beginning on Wednesday, Oregon will be adapting a statewide four-tiered set of restrictions.

Each week the state will post a list of counties and their risk category. Counties in the extreme risk category will be required to follow a number of restrictions including, but not limited to, social gatherings limited to six people or fewer while indoor recreation and fitness establishments will be prohibited from opening. Takeout is recommended for all eating and drinking establishments, which will be required to close by 11 p.m., and outdoor seating will be capped at a maximum of 50 people. Indoor entertainment establishments will be prohibited from opening while retail stores, shopping centers and faith institutions will be limited to 50% capacity or less.

As of Sunday, 21 counties, including Deschutes and Jefferson, are listed in the extreme risk category.

Counties listed as high risk, which include Clatsop, Coos, Crook, Lake, Hood River and Josephine, will have slightly lower restrictions, with at-home social gatherings limited to six and outdoor home gatherings to eight. Eating and drinking establishments may have limited indoor dining, while indoor recreation and fitness establishments can also open at 25% of capacity.

Moderate risk counties, which currently include Curry, Harney, Lincoln and Morrow, have fewer restrictions, while low-risk counties, which include Gilliam, Sherman, Tillamook, Wallowa and Wheeler, have even fewer restrictions.

On Monday, Nov. 30, the state was scheduled to announce a new list identifying which counties fall into which risk group for the week beginning Dec. 2.

What Crook County will be able to do concerning practice will probably be determined by which risk group the county finds itself in.

Even if practice is allowed to resume this week, that does not mean that games will be allowed. During the fall season, Crook County took the unusual step of stopping high school volleyball and instead allowing athletes to play club volleyball.

However, on the new set of restrictions, it appears that club sports are more restricted than high school sports. That means that even if practice is allowed, it may be impossible to play games for some time.

For example, as of Sunday, neither Deschutes nor Jefferson county teams would be allowed to practice, let alone play. That would leave Crook County with no teams to compete against, even if full contact competition were to be allowed. So, the reality is that as of today, the best winter teams can hope for is to be allowed to engage in training and conditioning only, with no contact of any kind. That would allow teams to be in shape and ready for games and matches at such time as they may be allowed, but severely limit what practice activities will be allowed. Should matches and games be allowed, players must have a minimum of nine practices prior to competition.

The OSAA Season 1 is currently scheduled to end on Sunday, Dec. 27, with the OSAA winter sports season still set to begin practice on Monday, Dec. 28. It is unlikely that winter teams will be allowed to play any games during OSAA Season 1, and the Dec. 28 date is looking like more and more of a long shot.

It is essentially a "wait and see" situation regarding what restrictions will be in place come late December.

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