Basketball bouts with covid as opposing team becomes infected causing game cancellations

The basketball season is back from winter break, but not without COVID-19 obstacles.

Many games have been canceled due to COVID infections on opposing teams. With all winter sports taking place indoors, the season has been more of a struggle than the outdoor fall season.

Girls Varsity Basketball Coach, Sue Grenfell said, “Overall, the team is in good spirits and continues to improve. But it is hard on the players mentally to prepare for games and then have them canceled. As one of our team leaders said last week, they miss getting the chance to prove themselves and to measure their improvements against competition.”

The continuation of the practice seems to have paid off- with the boys team winning 67-22 against a Concrete High School conference game, with the girls winning 64-21 also in a conference game against Concrete.

“Everyone on the team made a positive contribution,” Grenfell said. “We were led by Mia Blackmon who scored 19 points and shot 50% from the field. Our point guard, McKenna Clark, had a great all-around game, with 8 points, six rebounds, six assists, and only one turnover. And one of our senior captains, Ashley Lawson, had her best game of the year, with 12 points, eight rebounds, and two blocked shots.”

Despite the win for both teams, the number of cancellations is still substantial. The boys’ team had many cancellations including their Dec. 28 game against Granite Falls, their Jan. 8 game against Darrington, and their Jan. 12 game against Meridian. The girls’ Jan. 8 game against Darrington was canceled as well.

Friday Harbor High School Athletic Director Brock Hauck said that the athletic department is currently focused on following the Washington State Department of Health guidelines in order to do everything they can to keep the season going.

The CDC states on their website that, “Sports that require frequent closeness or contact between players may make it more difficult to maintain physical distancing and therefore may present an increased risk for COVID-19 spread. For close-contact sports like basketball or football, play may be modified to safely increase distance between players.”

The site also goes on to say, “For sports that are normally played indoors such as hockey and gymnastics, coaches can focus on individual skill building or conditioning in lieu of team-based practice, limit the number of players or athletes in the facility at one time so they can space out by at least 6 feet, or conduct modified practices outdoors.”

These guidelines were updated on Jan. 7, 2022, in response to the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. The updates are congruent with the CDC’s updated guidelines, which state, “Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public. People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”

Students wishing to participate in sports are also subject to the Test to Stay program, which makes it obligatory for athletes to be tested if they want to remain part of the team. This was updated on Dec. 17, raising the number of test days to three days a week. It was also updated to ensure that everyone is tested three days a week, regardless of vaccination status, along with coaches, trainers, and supporting personnel.

The Washington DOH also states in their Test to Stay program that, “Among those screening tests, at least one must occur no sooner than the day before the competition, ideally, and whenever possible, the day of the event.”

When infections do happen amongst teammates, the DOH utilizes contact tracing in order to quarantine any other people who may need to do so.

Hauck said that the schedule online generally remains up-to-date about game cancellations.

“With a little time to get over the initial disappointment of not getting to travel or play, the team regains its excellent perspective, and are grateful that they still get to attend school in person, that they still get to practice, and that our season has not just been canceled,” Grenfell said.

Hauck made a similar statement saying, “It’s unfortunate that we have all these canceled games. But we are staying positive because they haven’t canceled the season yet at least.”