WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Amid intense pressure, the state's largest school district in Wichita has overturned its decision to call off all fall sports and activities because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Board of Education for the 50,000-student district reversed itself Tuesday after members were flooded with emails and phone calls pleading and demanding that sports be allowed to continue. The outcry included a massive demonstration at Wichita Northwest High School. Athletes also had stood outside the board's meeting space holding signs and chanting following the initial Aug. 20 cancellation decision, The Wichita Eagle reports.
District schools will only compete against each other during the regular season but would remain eligible for postseason play.
Some of the state's other large districts also have called off fall sports, including Shawnee Mission and Kansas City, Kansas.
The Lawrence district initially said it would put the brakes on its fall sports last week after Douglas County experienced a bump in cases as the University of Kansas began reporting the results of compulsory testing of students arriving on campus. But the district is now allowing sports to proceed for now and will reevaluate whether to continue on Sept. 10, said district spokeswoman Julie Boyle.
“We want to make sure we aren’t making a knee jerk reaction to a spike in the numbers," Boyle told The Associated Press.
Statewide, Kansas reported 1,328 new COVID-19 cases from Monday to Wednesday, bringing the state’s confirmed total to 43,940. That includes 15 sports clusters with 119 cases. Health officials also reported an additional 12 COVID-19-related deaths for a statewide death toll of 458.
As the numbers rose, a coalition of Kansas City-area hospital and business officials pleaded with residents during a virtual news conference Wednesday to continue to wear masks, social distance and refrain from large gatherings despite being weary of the restrictions.
Dr. David Wild, vice president of performance improvement at The University of Kansas Health Center, said the number of new patients entering the hospital is higher now than at any time during the pandemic, including in the early days in April.
And Mayor David Alvey of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, noted that Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator for President Donald Trump’s administration, warned Kansas and Missouri leaders in mid-August that the states would become “red zones” for coronavirus cases if residents didn’t improve their use of safety practices.
An area is considered a “red zone” if it has a 10% positivity rating. Alvey said since Birx’s visit, Kansas’ positivity rating has climbed to 16%.
“The virus has taken us to the red zone,” Alvey said. “So here we are, either we take greater control of the virus or the virus will take greater control of our health, our economy, our daily activities.”