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Coronavirus outbreak shows difficulties managing sports

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

As Claremont High School sports returns to competition, a cautionary tale of the continued threat posed by the coronavirus emerged earlier this month when CHS Principal Brett O’Connor reported that an outbreak had occurred among the boys water polo team.

In a letter sent to parents March 10, Mr. O’Connor said there were “confirmed cases” involving both the varsity and junior varsity teams. The teams will have to quarantine for 14 days and will not be able to participate in games or practice. No other students or staff were identified as having been exposed.

“Cleaning and disinfecting of exposed locations are underway.  Also, CUSD is working closely with the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LACDPH) and has notified all persons who were identified as having had close contact with the athletes who tested positive,” Mr. O’Connor said in the letter

In an email to the COURIER, Mr. O’Connor said the positive cases were discovered through CIF-mandated COVID-19 testing, after which the lab informed the school of the outbreak.

The quarantine effectively ends the boys water polo season, which was truncated by the very late start to all high school sports this year. However, other sports that use the CHS pool, girls water polo as well as boys and girls swimming, will continue.

On February 24, revised guidance from the California State Department of Public Health allowed both youth and adult team sports to resume practice and competition even as Los Angeles County schools remained closed. (In the weeks since sports returned, the virus has subsided considerably and now schools are scheduled to reopen in April.)

“Updated state guidance allows for all outdoor youth and adult recreational sports, including moderate-contact and high-contact sports, to resume practice, training and competitions in counties where the case rate is at or below 14 cases per 100,000,” public health officials said in a statement at the time.

The state guidance requires youth leagues offering moderate and high-contact sports, which includes water polo, to obtain consent from parents or guardians to ensure they are aware of the risks. Players and coaches who participate in high-contact sports such as football and water polo are required to get a COVID-19 test weekly.

Wolfpack football returned to competition last Friday with a 28-0 home win over Chino Hills. Football Coach Shane Hile said his team has been practicing three days per week and has a five-game schedule lined up. While Coach Hile has emphasized strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols during practice, staying six feet apart in an actual game will not be possible.

The coaches will be taking players’ temperatures prior to the game and will ask each player if they are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms. Players will have to wear face coverings on the sidelines.

Each player was allowed to invite four family members to attend, so there was a small crowd of fans at last Friday’s game. No ticket sales were offered for the public.

“CUSD is committed to the health and safety of our students and staff. All current sports team practices and games are following LACDPH, LA County Department of Education and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) requirements. We will continue to monitor all of our student athletes and coaches closely and ensure the required protocols for practices/games are strictly adhered to,” Mr. O’Connor said in his letter.

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