The Washington State Department of Health, in collaboration with several local public health jurisdictions, is investigating multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 connected to several high school wrestling tournaments that took place on Dec. 4.
The number of cases linked to the events is estimated to be between 80 and 90, but as this investigation is ongoing, the total may change.
The impacted wrestling tournaments all happened on Dec. 4, 2021, and include:
• John Birbeck Invitational in Lacey, WA
• Ed Arima Duals in Sumner, WA
• Lady Jags Kickoff Tournament in Puyallup, WA
• Yelm Girls Varsity in Yelm, WA
Counties that had high schools in attendance include Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Skagit, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Whatcom and Yakima. A high school in Oregon also sent participants.
Over the coming days, local health jurisdictions will likely send out notifications to the impacted schools with further guidance for next steps. DOH recommends that anyone who attended these events as a participant, coach, official, support staff, or spectator should monitor for symptoms and get tested for COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms or who tests positive should stay home from work, school, childcare or social activities, according to the department.
A team of DOH epidemiologists, in collaboration with local health jurisdiction epidemiologists, is working on gathering more information about these events and the corresponding COVID-19 cases.
“This is a dynamic situation and evolving investigation,” said the Department of Health in a written statement. “We will share updates as we learn more.”
The Vashon Island School District (VISD) has responded to an outbreak currently numbering 10 cases of COVID, which has affected the school’s wrestling team. Eight of the 10 positive cases are wrestlers on the boys’ and girls’ wrestling teams.
On Dec. 4, both the school teams traveled to two different multi-district tournaments.The boys’ team headed to Auburn High School, where they competed with eight other teams from Auburn, Federal Way, and Issaquah.
The girls’ team attended an even bigger tournament, in Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup, which hosted 23 teams from throughout King and Pierce counties.
The Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber (a sister newspaper of the Auburn Reporter) reports that in a phone interview on Dec. 13, Auburn High School’s athletic director Jon Price said that he knew of no outbreaks at schools other than Vashon that had attended the tournament, and that none of his school’s athletes had tested positive for COVID following the tournament, or indeed during the entire school year.
Emerald Ridge High School athletic director Jesse Case, reached by phone, declined to comment on cases of COVID at his school or among his athletes or any other schools attending his tournament, citing privacy concerns.
Both athletic directors said they strictly enforced Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 safety guidelines at their tournaments, including universal indoor masking for athletes who were not actively participating in either practices or competitions during the tournament.
However, a photo obtained by The Beachcomber that was taken during the tournament in Auburn shows 10 members of the Vashon team sitting side by side on the sidelines of a match, intently watching their teammate compete. All were unmasked. (The Beachcomber is not running the photo out of sensitivity to the student-athletes.)