Jan. 14—Here we go again.
It's been almost two years since COVID-19 brought high school sports — and most everything else — to a screeching halt. And now the super-contagious Omicron variant has begun disrupting schedules.
As a sports writer, I've been tracking COVID in a seasonal manner, and as the 2021 football season went on, it felt like we were emerging from this pandemic nightmare. High school sports had powered through the Delta variant with few issues, and nary an area football team had to forfeit a playoff game.
COVID cases were at a low ebb once basketball season began, but then here came Omicron, just in time for cold-and-flu season. Mississippi's COVID load is currently 270% of last winter's nationwide peak level, according to the New York Times.
Our whole state is considered a hot spot. Lee County, for example, has had an average of 236 cases per day over the past week.
The good news in all this is that both hospitalizations and deaths in Mississippi are down from last year's peak. While Omicron is very contagious, it doesn't appear to be as dangerous.
Nevertheless, schools have to take precautions, which means enough cases can shut things down. Tupelo Christian has canceled school today, citing "an excessive amount of absences" due to COVID, flu, etc. So the boys basketball team has to forfeit tonight's division game against Tremont. The TCPS girls get a forfeit win, though, because Tremont's girls were already in quarantine.
Tupelo's boys and girls will have to forfeit tonight's games against Grenada after the school district canceled school due to a teacher and staff shortage.
Last weekend, Tishomingo County's girls got a forfeit win over division foe Itawamba AHS. That kept the Lady Braves undefeated, but coach Brian Middleton badly wanted to play and tried in vain to find a replacement game.
The Tangle on the Trail boys tournament, held last Saturday at Pontotoc, underwent several lineup changes in the days leading up to it. It got to where organizers had to find alternate teams that could come play if anyone else dropped out.
I was at Okolona last Friday as the Chieftains hosted Houlka. There had been a COVID outbreak in the community, and the game was nearly called off. They ultimately let the teams play but limited attendance and required masks.
East Union's girls had to forfeit a game earlier this week after going into quarantine. The Lady Urchins were set to play Thursday in the Union County Tournament, but the entire event has been postponed. Coach Chase Brown said he wouldn't be surprised if more games are canceled in the coming weeks.
I'm afraid he's right. Let's just hope COVID slacks off before the playoffs begin.
Brad Locke is senior sports writer for the Daily Journal. Contact him on Twitter @bradlocke or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.