AKRON, Ohio — If you play a sport, the saying ‘You win some, you lose some,’ rings true. But for high school student-athletes who play spring sports, COVID-19 forced them to lose an entire season.
“It’s been hard. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it has been challenging,” said Willie McGee, the athletic director of St. Vincent St. Mary high school.
But with vaccinations rising and case counts falling, this spring, those athletes are getting a break.
“We’ve said for the last few months if they’re in a classroom, everybody’s wearing a mask and they’re exposed, they do not have to quarantine from school, but the order was that they would have to quarantine from extracurricular actives, from sports,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
But in a press conference on Thursday, DeWine announced that any student-athlete who plays a spring sport and is incidentally exposed to COVID-19 in class, but do not have symptoms and follow sports guidelines, the quarantine from sports is no longer necessary.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the chief medical officer at the Ohio Department of Health, said the change is, partly, due to the type of sports played in the spring.
“Most of the time, they're outdoors or in facilities that can open doors and windows to allow enhanced ventilation. That really reduces the risk of COVID transmission,” he said.
Dr. David Margolius with MetroHealth said he supports the decision.
“I think we know so much more about COVID-19 now than we did last spring when everything was shut down,” he said.
He noted if a student is properly following social distancing and masking guidelines at school, the risk of contracting COVID-19 after an incidental exposure is low.
“The social isolation that kids have had to suffer through this year has been incredibly traumatic,” said Margolius. “I think any little bit will help for their mental health and physical health. I’m glad that we are prioritizing that going forward.”
McGee said balancing COVID-19 guidelines for different sports throughout the 2020-2021 school year has been a challenge.
“Some of the things that we have to do in football wasn't necessarily all the things we had to do in volleyball,” he said.
But with a student body made up of more than 80% of student-athletes, he said they’ve been more conservative when it comes to any type of COVID-19 exposure.
“You always want to air on the side of caution because you didn't want to jeopardize the whole team and, you know, that individual,” he said.
McGee said they address every student and possible exposure individually and said it’s been working. Despite DeWine lowering the quarantine guidelines, he said they’re going to keep doing what they’ve been doing all year.
“You don't want to get too lenient and change some things and take a step back, you know, if something's not broke, don't fix it,” said McGee.