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There are 30 states playing football in the fall, though some with slight delays

PMG FILE PHOTO - Scappoose's (left to right) Thomas Greiner, Slater Smiens, Josh Rice and Riyle Kauffman got their chance to play in 2019, but the Indians' 2020-21 team will have to wait until March 2021 to get its chance on the field.If you live on the west coast like we do, you might not know that there's something different happening elsewhere in the country.

Up and down the west coast — from Washington in the north, through Oregon and continuing south all the way through California — high school sports are on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Oregon, the Oregon School Activities Association announced Aug. 5 that fall sports would be moved to a seven-week season starting in March 2021.

The same is true in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, not to mention important media hubs such as Chicago and Washington, D.C.

But guess what? Those same delays are not in effect everywhere in the country.

According to — and using football as a placeholder for all fall high school sports — there are 30 states that still plan to play football in the fall. Indeed, many that have already kicked off the fall season, beginning with football in Utah on Aug. 13. Football start dates range from Utah's early kickoff all the way to early October for Louisiana and New Jersey.

Conversely, just 16 states and the District of Columbia have announced their intentions to push high school football (and in many cases, other fall sports, too) into 2021. Michigan, meanwhile, has reversed field twice, moving its high school football start date to the spring of 2021, then moving it back to Sept. 17-18.

Another two states are allowing some schools to play football in the fall and some in the spring, one state (Connecticut) canceled football altogether, one (Rhode Island) is still undecided and one (Vermont) has shifted to seven-man touch football this fall.

For their part, fall sports athletes in St. Helens and Scappoose are just grateful they'll get to play, even if they have to wait until March to do it. Right now, athletes in St. Helens and Scappoose are not allowed to work with coaches in person or practice together.

"They are very grateful to get the chance to play this year," said St. Helens football coach Cory Young. "I think many of the seniors feared they would miss out on senior year and Friday night lights. Many of them have realized how important and special football is once they thought it might be taken away from them."

"We're excited about a chance to play because, originally when stuff got sent out, contact sports were excluded from the list," said Scappoose football coach Sean McNabb. "So I was really worried that football was going to be canceled altogether. So when the (Oregon School Activities Association) came out with with the calendar, playing football is better than nothing."

The assumptions that many people make regarding these disparate start dates for high school football are: 1) They were chosen based on the state-by-state data on coronavirus infections/hospitalizations/deaths; or 2) They were selected based on each state's Republican or Democratic status.

As it turns out, neither of those assumptions are entirely true, though the latter appears to be far more true than the former.


State-by-state data

As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, here's where Oregon ranks versus other states (and Washington, D.C.) in America in various COVID-19 categories as measured by the Worldometers website.

• In total cases, Oregon has had 29,662 cases — 15th fewest in the country.

• In total cases per million, Oregon is 48th at 7,033 — only three states have lower infection rates.

• In total active cases, Oregon is 19th nationally with 23,804.

• In total COVID-19 deaths, Oregon has lost 519 people — 14th fewest in the country.

• In deaths per million, Oregon is 46th at 123 — only five states have lower death rates.

By way of comparison, New Jersey is still playing football this fall — it's scheduled to kick off its gridiron season on Oct. 1. Here's how New Jersey compares to Oregon in those same statistical categories.

• In total cases, New Jersey has had 200,800 cases — eighth most in the country.

• In total cases per million, New Jersey is 14th at 22,607.

• In total active cases, New Jersey is 23rd nationally with 18,627.

• In total COVID-19 deaths, New Jersey has lost 16,166 people — the second-most in the country.

• In deaths per million, New Jersey has the highest number in the country at 1,820.

Among states scheduled to high school football in the fall, Louisiana has the second-highest death rate per million at 1,135 — fifth nationally. Here's how Louisiana fares in those same categories.

• In total cases, Louisiana is 11th nationally with 158,318 cases.

• In total cases per million, Louisiana is first at 34,056.

• In total active cases, Louisiana is 29th nationally with 12,600.

• In total COVID-19 deaths, Louisiana has lost 5,278 people to rank 12th in the country.

• In deaths per million, Louisiana is fifth at 1,135.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The 2020-21 St. Helens football team is looking ahead to March of 2021 for its chance to play this year like graduated senior Canon Beisley and his teammates got in the fall of 2019.

State-by-state politics

While there isn't one-to-one correspondence, the maps that show which states are open for fall sports are analogous to those maps that show which states are led by Republican governors and which states voted Republican in the 2016 election.

Of the 30 states that have scheduled all their high schools to play football in the fall — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming — 23 are currently led by Republican governors.

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