CLEVELAND (WJW) – Several Northeast Ohio school districts have reported positive cases of the coronavirus among student athletes taking part in summer practices.
Sports training resumed Wednesday in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District following a temporary suspension of athletics after a student athlete tested positive for COVID-19.
“We cannot stress enough the importance of health and safety for our student athletes,” Superintendent Liz Kirby wrote in a letter to parents and staff Tuesday.
In the letter, Kirby said the district contacted county health officials, who were conducting contact tracing, and thoroughly cleaned athletic areas.
“I think these are things that are just going to pop up,” said Dr. Prakash Ganesh, a physician consultant for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health who has advised school districts on sports amid the pandemic.
When an athlete tests positive, he said, communication with local health departments and contact tracing are key to identifying others potentially at risk.
“That way, we can help minimize the number of people we quarantine and let things go on with others in the practice or on the team,” Ganesh said.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association provided recommendations for summer sports to districts, but much is left up to districts and health departments.
After a Dover football player contracted COVID-19, Tuscarawas County health officials announced a two-week at-home quarantine for anyone at practice with the player Friday.
In a letter to the football team, Tuscarawas County health Commissioner Katie Seward said the quarantine was implemented “out of an abundance of caution” even though the player “may have only had close contact with a portion of the team.”
Dr. Susannah Briskin, with the Pediatric Sports Medicine division of University Hospitals, said coaches need to screen for temperature and other symptoms before practice and keep a record.
“It’s probably inevitable for people locally to be getting coronavirus. The issue is about trying to keep our athletes safe. We need to try to minimize the risk of spread,” Briskin said.
She also recommended teams form small groups that always practice together to reduce exposure, in addition to cleaning equipment and having athletes wash hands and wear face coverings before and after practice.
“It’s all about minimizing their risk within the sports setting, which is really where we need to focus,” Briskin said.
Health experts said it’s important student athletes be honest about their symptoms, communicate symptoms with coaches and athletic directors and stay home if they’re feeling sick.