Basketball, football programs temporarily shut down because of possible COVID-19 exposure

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Andrew Ngo

Linebacker senior Noah Brown runs around a cone during a June 23 football practice on the Sunny Hills baseball field. Practices would be suspended two weeks later on July 6 before resuming on Aug. 17 but have since been shut down again because of possible COVID-19 exposure.

Andrew Ngo

This story was updated at 8:40 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, with an additional quote from principal Allen Whitten and information about how many athletes have been exposed to COVID-19. 

In what’s been a wild and tumultuous year for high school athletics, the coronavirus pandemic has pitched yet another curveball into coaches’ plans —  a more than two-week suspension of practices for the school’s football, boys basketball and girls basketball programs. 

“It throws a wrench into what we’re trying to do,” girls basketball head coach Jae Byun said. “We’re trying to get into a rhythm so this is a little disappointing, but we have to go with the flow.”

Administration halted boys and girls basketball practices Sept. 2 after an anonymous basketball player reported to the school that they came into contact with a family member who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The athlete has not yet reported any symptoms as of Sept. 19.

“The athlete had practiced on the sport court, where both basketball teams had practiced recently, so we suspended practices out of caution,” principal Allen Whitten said. 

Whitten believed that the move to alert only coaches and athletes of the affected teams overinformed the community — even while other athletes in other sports practicing on campus were left only with rumors and unconfirmed facts.

“We want to inform above normal expectations and be very logical about it,” he said. “It comes down to exposure and changes based on the severity of the case. It would be a different response if it was a positive case from a student on campus who isn’t asymptomatic.”

Both programs plan to resume practices on Sept. 21 barring any other stoppages because of poor air quality from recent fires spreading throughout California or excessive heat.

Just a week after basketball players received word that their practices would be put on hold, football players received an email notice from Whitten on Sept. 9 notifying them that one of their teammate’s mother tested positive on Sept. 4 for the coronavirus as part of a routine check with her employer. Neither the athlete nor his mother has shown any symptoms.

The most recent football practice had been held Sept. 3, a day before the player’s mother tested positive. 

“It sucks not being able to go to football practice,” fullback junior Tj Vaipae said. “But for me and most of my teammates, we make sure we go to the gym or work out at home.”

Unlike the basketball programs, the football team does not yet have an announced return date for practices, according to Whitten’s email. 

Although coaches and athletes hope the stoppages in practice will be a one-time affair, the possibility of another temporary shutdown looms in the future. 

“Our current protocol is a two-week shutdown,” Byun said. “But there’s a point when this won’t work anymore. Our girls can’t even share basketballs right now.”

While the football team has yet to suit up in pads this year, Vaipae said the belief of a productive season in the spring still remains. 

“If we don’t practice later, I’m sure it will affect us in some ways,” the junior said. “I’m sure we will figure it out as a team and try to make this year count though.” 

As of Sept. 21, no other sports teams have reported athletes testing positive for the coronavirus; nor have any other athletes reported to have come in contact with anyone who has tested positive for the illness.

This is a developing story. Follow @AccoladeSports on Twitter and check back to this story for more updates.