Northeast Ohio schools continue to adapt as student-athletes test positive for coronavirus

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– As the state’s high school football season gets underway this week, another Northeast Ohio team is sidelined because of a case of coronavirus. Meanwhile, three players on a girls volleyball team have also tested positive, forcing two schools to temporarily halt their programs.

“This COVID situation. Two steps forward, two steps back sometimes. You gotta pause, you have to be safe,” said Bill Wingler, principal of Strongsville High School.

The Strongsville Mustangs’ first football game of the season Friday is canceled and all practices are suspended until then. Last week, the school district learned a player tested positive after coming down with symptoms of COVID-19.

“We had to quarantine a small group of football players, our coaches have done a wonderful job of keeping kids in pods in small groups so that this doesn’t spread beyond a small group… All of the other players are asymptomatic,” Wingler said.

On the other side of Cuyahoga County, three players on the Mayfield High School girls’ volleyball team tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. The school district said all of its volleyball teams are suspended from playing or practicing until further notice.

“We scrimmaged them on Wednesday,” said Kirtland Local Schools superintendent Chad VanArnhem.

Monday morning, Mayfield informed Kirtland High School, which temporarily halted its volleyball program as well.

“Later in the day, after we sent out our email, we learned from one of our parents, that one of our players wasn’t feeling well and was running a fever, so, she’s going to have her checked out as well,” the superintendent said.

“I think we’re gonna be learning in the next few weeks how much transmission we’re gonna see,” said Dr. Susannah Briskin, a pediatric sports physician at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Briskin said is unclear how well COVID can spread while playing contact sports, but she said each player’s behavior off the field can affect the entire team.

“So if kids are getting together in groups away from the field, they’re much more likely to be spreading COVID-19 amongst themselves and then bringing it back to the team,” Briskin said.

“I think that the way we’re providing athletics is in a very safe environment,” Wingler said.

“It’s important that we all stick to our protocols and safety and communicate, so that when these things pop up, we prevent anything from spreading further,” VanArnhem said.

The principal of Strongsville High School said he believes if players follow county and state safety guidelines, the school district can maintain a safe environment for student athletes. 

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health recommended that school districts not play contact sports at this time.

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