High school athletics in Letcher County is in the balance, as the county has entered the “substantial community transmission” zone for average daily COVID-19 cases.
According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, Letcher County, as of Tuesday afternoon, had an incidence rate of 25.2 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, landing the county in the red, or “critical,” zone in the state’s incidence rate guidance for new COVID-19 cases. That means, per guidelines issued by the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Department for Public Health, all school-related athletics and extracurricular activities should be suspended.
The “substantial community transmission” designation also halts any opportunity for in-classroom school instruction, which neither the Jenkins Independent Schools District nor the Letcher County Public School District had started yet in the fall semester.
As a result of the county’s “critical” designation, Jenkins Independent has elected to halt all athletics and extracurricular activities. Jenkins Athletics Director Ashley Addington-Congleton wrote in a Facebook post that all games and practices were suspended effective immediately.
“We will be attempting to re- schedule all games,” she wrote. “ Please follow guidelines: Wear masks, and social distance. Simple instructions to follow to prevent repercussions such as this.”
Addington-Congleton told The Mountain Eagle that athletics at Jenkins would be suspended until such a time that Letcher County enters the yellow, or “community spread” designation, which has an incidence rate of between one and 10 new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, a two-level improvement from the current red zone.
Letcher County Public Schools has not yet suspended athletics. Superintendent Denise Yonts said the district’s board of education would make a decision following the release of new COVID-19 case data for the county on Thursday.
The Letcher County Central High School volleyball team’s game at Pikeville was cancelled Tuesday, but the cancellation, according to Letcher Central Athletics Director Michael Melton, was due to Pikeville’s victory in the All-A volleyball tournament. It was unclear at press time Tuesday whether any athletics contests had been cancelled due to the county’s COVID-19 incidence rate.
Letcher County entered the red zone on Monday after 19 new COVID-19 cases were announced by the Kentucky River District Health Department. That number appeared to still be growing at The Eagle’s press time on Tuesday night.