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Latest Covid-19 strain derails some sports events in Western Montana

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley Press | September 15, 2021 12:00 AM

School officials throughout Sanders and Mineral counties are keeping a close eye on a resurgent wave of the Covid-19 virus and its much publicized Delta strain as the specter of canceled or postponed school events shuffled schedules this past weekend.

One of the first and most stringent moves came from Plains School District, which reverted to at least temporary remote learning situations for grades 9-12.

The district also took immediate action and canceled or postponed all “extracurricular activities” until Monday, Sept. 20. That move affected the planned home football game against Flint Creek and several volleyball matches.

Stricken from the schedule were home matches versus Troy this past week and Eureka this coming weekend. Also effected were road matches that were set for Sept. 11 against Missoula Loyola and Bigfork, Sept. 16. The cross country team did not compete in the Flathead Invite Sept. 10.

At this time, the next volleyball game would be a home match Sept. 21 against Noxon.

A Plains School District statement on their website says, “Due to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, and the extensive list of contact traced students, beginning Monday, Sept. 13, the students of PHS in grades 9 through 12 will be using remote learning."

The statement emphasized the changes apply to “grades 9 through 12 ONLY” and that kindergarten through eighth grade will still be on campus learning and competing in extra curricular activities”.

Schools in Thompson Falls have also readied precautionary measures if the number of Covid cases continue to rise. Those precautions were based on a confirmed case involving a high school staff member.

“The staff member’s last day of attending school was Thursday, Sept. 9,” a post on the school district’s website said. “If any students or staff are at risk of exposure, the Sanders County Health Department will be in contact with that person to determine a safe and appropriate course of action.

"It is still recommended that any person who feels sick or ill, seek out their medical provider for specific instructions.” Stay safe, the announcement concluded.

A scheduled home football game at Thompson Falls Friday night was held as planned, although the start of the game was delayed an hour while school officials waited for heavy smoke from wildfires created temporary hazardous breathing conditions to clear.

In addition, the Blue Hawks volleyball team traveled to Deer Lodge over the weekend and played as planned. There was no immediate word onwhether a match scheduled for later the same day in Anaconda was held as planned.

Noxon Schools took an approach similar to that of Thompson Falls, advising those feeling ill to seek advice from their health care provider after Sanders County Health officials confirmed that a student who was in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 patient was notified of possible exposure.

A planned volleyball match Saturday evening in Noxon against St. Regis was held as scheduled, although the start time was moved up an hour because no JV game was held.

A similar situation existed in Hot Springs where a student, who is also a member of the volleyball team, was identified as having had possible exposure contact with a Covid-positive individual.

Because only seven players came out for volleyball this year in Hot Springs, their scheduled volleyball game was canceled for this past weekend. The Covid contact measure, coupled with an earlier injury to one of the players would have left the team with only five active players.

Six players are required for each volleyball team.

Elsewhere, there was no report from a scheduled volleyball match between Superior and Charlo to be held in Charlo Saturday evening.

Sports fans who root for teams at any of the six Sanders and Mineral County schools can contact the school if they have questions about scheduled events or Covid protocols.