COVID-19 cases cause some high school football teams in western Washington to cancel game day

It’s a scramble to scrimmage as high school football teams across western Washington rearrange game day plans due to COVID-19. Several schools confirmed at least one positive case on the team, causing most of the members to get benched for quarantine.

Rainier Beach High School was supposed to take on Tukwila’s Foster High School on Friday. 

"We were contacted by Foster High School. Foster High School had some issues, some quarantine issues, so they had to pull out of the game," said Pat McCarthy, Executive Director of Athletics for Seattle Public Schools.

The sudden change prompted Rainier Beach’s head coach to post a plea on Twitter, asking if any other area school was available to play. The school’s athletic director contacted area school districts and eventually confirmed Friday’s game against Eastlake High School.

"Called them up and said, ‘Hey do you guys still have a bye-week and are you willing to play?’ And so there were some conversations and it happened to work out," said McCarthy.

Other teams that had to cancel and reschedule due to COVID include Kentridge High School, Meadowdale High School, Lynnwood High School, Lake Stevens High School and Elma High School. 

Washington Interscholastic Activities Associations said it does not keep track of contests played or cancelled on a daily basis.

Washington State Department of Health guidelines say unvaccinated athletes and staff who come in close contact with a confirmed case must quarantine, even if they initially receive a negative test. Those who are vaccinated don’t have to quarantine unless they are showing symptoms. 

McCarthy said Seattle Public Schools’ athletic department continues to follow guidelines set by DOH and WIAA.

"We’re buckling down on our protocols and I think everybody is trying to do that. We’re trying to manage the best we can in the environment that we’re in right now. We’re all following the guidelines but things happen," said McCarthy.

Some students said they worry what could happen within schools if cancellations are happening on the field.

"I am slightly worried that school will close down," said Dake, a sophomore in the Edmonds School District.

"You know, it’s kind of sad. It’s a big part of our school culture or whatever. So I’d like to have it be normal again," said Vlad, a sophomore in the Edmonds School District.

After hardly having a season last year due to the pandemic, student athletes said they’re just happy to have an audience this time. 

"I think this year is definitely something special for us to all see. Hopefully, fingers crossed that none of our games get canceled," said Caleb Presley, who plays cornerback for Rainier Beach High School. "I think we have a chance to make some noise this year with a real crowd, some real fans. And I think it’s going to be a great game today."

WIAA said all spectators are required to wear masks at games, players and coaches must maintain safe distance on the sidelines. SPS said it continues to make sure competition remains healthy and safe.

"They need to be out, they need to be active. We found that they were really struggling last year, so this is a really good outlet for them and it’s another way that they can learn," said McCarthy.

"I get to see my friends and stuff, but I’m keeping my mask on," said Molly Dawit a Rainier Beach student who planned to attend the game. "You don’t want corona and you want to keep other people safe."

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