Players and coaches are growing increasingly frustrated as Ohio counties reveal different protocols for coronavirus exposure for high school football teams.
Matt Lancaster, the head coach for the Indian Valley High School football team in Tuscarawas County, said 16 of his students were quarantined after an exposure during a game on October 10.
Lancaster said officials at his school were told on Tuesday that an assistant coach and a player at rival Indian Creek High School had tested positive for coronavirus.
The Jefferson County Health Department told the Indian Creek team that all coaches and players are not permitted on the school’s campus for at least 14 days, according to local paper The Times Leader.
“We don’t want to see anybody get sick or anybody else get sick. I’m just worried about our kids and their families,” head coach Andrew Connor told the outlet. “I just hope it doesn’t spread any further.”
Lancaster said the Tuscarawas County Health Department also told his team that any player that had contact with the infected player also had to quarantine, even though players that less than the cumulative 15 minutes of exposure the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as “high-risk.”
According to a tally conducted by Lancaster to present to his county’s health department, the player with the most exposure with the infected player came into contact with him nine times for 40 seconds in total. Lancaster said the health department did not recommend testing, citing low viral load count and saying that the players would be required to quarantine the full two weeks.
The resulting quarantine has affected “pretty much” the whole varsity team, Lancaster said.
“This ends our playoff run,” Lancaster said.
The head coach said that the team was originally told they would be following CDC guidelines, so the change came as a surprise.
“We don’t want to put any at risk, if we’re really putting them at risk…but the standards are the standards,” Lancaster said. “We’re disappointed by the miscommunication.”
Lancaster’s son, JD Lancaster, was among one of the 16 students told he had to quarantine. He is a senior at the school and currently plays center and is on the defensive line.
“I’m upset and a little bit angry we got knocked out of the playoffs this way,” he said.
Thursday was the first day of quarantine. JD Lancaster said his teammates are upset, too.
“They aren’t very happy about it either,” he said. “A lot of them are itching to get back to school.”
At other schools, though, the protocol is different.
A West Holmes High School official confirmed to The Ohio Star that despite an exposure during a game against Dover High School, no one on the team had been required to be tested or quarantined because there had been less than 15 minutes of cumulative exposure.
West Holmes High School is in Holmes County. The Holmes County Health Department had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publishing.
A health official for Tuscarawas County said the protocol differs from CDC recommendation because of lack of masks and the close contact players have.
“Athletes can be deemed ‘lose contacts’ in a contact sport exposure setting, even though the players may not have spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person. During a typical contact sport game, increased risk of illness spread takes place due to the players’ inability to wear masks and socially distance while potentially sharing respiratory droplets and sweat,” Jennifer Demuth, the director of health promotion and community relations for Tuscarawas County Health Department, told The Ohio Star in an email. “Based upon the increased risk of exposure in contact sports, the Tuscarawas County Health Department works collaboratively with the leadership of local schools and athletic associations in the decision to quarantine athletes who were known to be within close proximity of a positive COVID-19 case during a game or practice setting.”
Lancaster said he was frustrated about the protocol.
“[I said], ‘this doesn’t seem like CDC guidelines,’ and [the health department] said ‘we treat football differently,’” Lancaster said.
– – –
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Ohio Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair.