LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Jefferson County high school sports season that overcame a delayed start will now endure a pause and an uncertain finish because of a rise in local novel coronavirus cases.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio made the following announcement in an e-mail to parents after a 9 a.m. Zoom teleconference with athletic directors:

"As you know, Jefferson County is now categorized as being a 'red' county due to the number of COVID-19 cases in our area, meaning there are at least 25 cases per 100,000 people. This is the highest level of COVID-19 categories determined by the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Department of Public Health. State guidance advises district leaders to review the data to make a decision about sports for the upcoming week. After reviewing this week's data and guidelines established by the state, JCPS will:

  • Allow contests that fall under KHSAA postseason jurisdiction to proceed as scheduled.
  • Play scheduled games for (Friday night) and this weekend.  
  • Follow KHSAA Healthy at Sports guidance which allows practice, but no games or game-like simulations for teams not already in postseason play.
  • Reschedule regular season contests planned for next week, when possible.
  • Review the data again on Thursday evening and make another determination about athletics next Friday morning.

The pause was a result of an increase in the rate of positive COVID-19 tests that moved Jefferson County into the state of Kentucky's "red" or "critical" designation. "We walk through every scenario, and it is painstaking," said Dr. Pollio.

Pollio said the district had several conversations with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association specifically focused on how to move forward with sports, while following state health guidelines. 

"(State government has) given us a clear rubric on this, and we will follow that," Pollio said, prior to the announcement. "So instead of going by other gut feelings or opinions, we're going to follow the guidance of the experts."

Under the new orders, for example, Louisville Male High School is able to play Bullitt East on Friday night with continued protocols.

"No locker rooms, no film rooms, no meeting time inside, no weight rooms, no bus transportation," said Chris Wolfe, head football coach at Male.

However, next week's rivalry game against duPont Manual High School is canceled.

"There is motivation in sports. There is comradery in sports," Wolfe said. "All of these things are positive things for kids. And when you take those things away, it may be more detrimental than the actual virus itself."

Louisville's current rate is 28.9 cases per 100,000 people. A red zone designation is earned when the rate increases to at least 25 positive cases per 100,000 people. Jefferson County increased to the red zone designation last weekend. 

"The question will be moving forward, are we ever going to get out of that red county?" Wolfe said.

JCPS gets data on Thursdays. Pollio was asked why this weekend's games weren't canceled with Jefferson County in the red zone.

"We made the determination that Thursday at night at 8 o'clock," he said. "That would always be our determining factor, and it would determine next week's play."

The decision will be updated as needed. Two weeks remain in the high school football regular season. The state soccer tournament and field hockey championship match are scheduled for next week. Regional volleyball play as well as state cross country meets are also on the calendar for next week.

Pollio said he has not had a discussion about when they would cancel sports altogether. However, he's worried about what winter will bring.

"Some of the epidemiologists that I've spoken to, they are very alarmed at what two or three weeks from now could look like," he said.

JCPS will review the data again next Thursday and make another determination about athletics Friday.

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