Two local high school football teams were shut down for one week after players and coaches were sent into quarantine due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
On the first day of the fall high school sports season, the Bend High and Mountain View football programs were forced to shut down practices due to COVID-19 outbreaks in the programs. The two teams can return to the practice field on Aug. 24.
“Nobody wants to do this,” said Bend High coach Matt Craven. “This is just a once in a lifetime pandemic, and it is not done with us yet.”
Fully vaccinated, asymptomatic players and coaching staff will be allowed to practice. They must declare vaccine status, which will be verified with a state database, said Bend-La Pine Schools spokeswoman Julianne Repman.
Athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days do not need to quarantine as long as they are asymptomatic. The diagnosis will be verified with the health department.
Both teams will resume practices for the vaccinated athletes once the proper steps have been taken. At Mountain View, the practices will not be mandatory.
“I’m not going to be something that divides our team,” said Mountain View coach Brian Crum.
Bend High got word of the outbreak Sunday evening and canceled its practice on Monday while Mountain View found out after its first practice of the season Monday morning.
Since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, high school sports in Oregon have seen seasons canceled, shortened and moved around. Monday’s news is just another teachable moment for high school athletes who have had to deal with school closures and uncertainty surrounding athletics throughout the pandemic.
“That has been a great lesson for our kids the past 18 months,” said Crum. “How do you lean into adversity? How do you lean into problems?”
For the next week, the teams will not be able to practice or meet in person. It also means that neither team will be able to participate in the jamboree held at Redmond High on Aug. 27.
Players need to have nine practices with players in football pads before they can compete in games. That threshold will not be met by the jamboree. But there is still optimism that both teams will be able to play their entire nine-game schedules.
Had an outbreak occurred later in the season, teams would be at risk of missing multiple games. Going into quarantine now allows for the possibility of a full schedule to be played.
“This is the time to do it.We can still do Game 1,” said Crum. “Hopefully, we can stop any transmission and we come back healthy and have a full nine-game season. That is our goal at this point.
“The kids deserve normalcy,” Crum added. “I don’t know if they will get it, but they deserve it.”
For the rest of the high school teams starting off their season, the air quality caused a couple of bumps in the road on the first day.
Per the Oregon School Activities Association, if the air quality index is over 100, all outdoor contests shall be canceled or moved to an area with a lower AQI, and practices should be moved indoors, if available. If practices are held outside, the level of activity should be less than “normal” practice sessions and include rest periods.
In Central Oregon on Monday morning, the AQI exceeded 100, meaning practices could not be held in a normal capacity. By the afternoon, the air quality improved and teams were able to return to regularly scheduled practices.
Volleyball remained unchanged by the air quality because it is played indoors, but for football, soccer and cross-county teams, changes needed to be made.
Prior to learning of the shutdown, Mountain View football was set to practice outdoors at 9 a.m., but with the AQI above 150, players had to move their practice indoors.
Bend High cross-county typically runs and practices in the early morning before the temperature rises in the afternoon. At 7:45 a.m. Monday, the Lava Bears cross-country team canceled its practices.
“It was looking like today it was going to be better and cooler, but maybe tomorrow,” said Bend cross-country coach Lisa Nye. “Now we are trying to reevaluate when we practice. Usually we go in the morning because it is cooler.”
The air quality did improve by Monday afternoon. The Mountain View cross-country team could be seen running along 27th Street near the school’s campus.
The Redmond football team held its practice later in the evening and told its players to bring pairs of shoes for both indoor and outdoor practice depending on the air quality.
With Day 1 of the high school season in the books, it is on to Day 2.
“I think everyone was excited to see some normalcy back in the school and athletic programs,” said Craven. “But we are dealing with an adversary that is not on our time schedule.”