So far, so good
Spectator sports create COVID risk
Last updated 4/1/2021 at 12:19am
Editor's Note: As of the last check-in by The Beacon for the March 25, cases reported among athletes in school sports programs do not appear to be students in Mill Creek. If new information is obtained before the next print edition, this story will update.
The move to open up schools and sports has come with some risk for COVID-infection, but school districts and the private secondary school serving Mill Creek students report a clean slate, for now.
"Moving into Phase 3 and expanding occupancy and activities is great news for all of us," said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
He added that sports, particularly in schools, are showing to be an area of increased risk for viral spread.
"We've seen a growing number of cases in recent days," Spitters said on March 23, "and that's in sports settings and schools in particular. ... Since the beginning of the year we've had cases associated with numerous sports, including football, volleyball, soccer, swimming, basketball, hockey, and softball, as well as general weight training."
At least six cases were investigated in the past week around March 23, Spitters said. All six played or practiced on school sports teams, while contagious, Spitters said.
The cases were apparently not in schools serving Mill Creek, as of the last check-in by The Beacon.
"To our knowledge we have not had any student athletes test positive," said Kristin Foley, communications director for the district. That district serves Mill Creek families with Seattle Hill and Cathcart elementary schools as well as Valley View Junior High and Glacier Peak High School. Snohomish School District is applying the added caution of taking part in a UW clinical trial to test for asymptomatic illness.
In Everett Public Schools, only one close-call occurred.
"We have not had any outbreaks related to athletics in Mill Creek schools. We had one case where an opponent was positive several days after a match, but there were no resulting quarantines or cases," said Kathy Reeves, communications director for Everett Public Schools, which serves Mill Creek students at Mill Creek and Penny Creek elementary schools, as well as Heatherwood Middle school and Jackson High School. It also serves Bothell students at Cedar Wood, Tambark, and Woodside elementary schools.
Told there were cases reported in athletic programs in the county and asked for an update, the local private school reported a clean record so far, as well.
"Thus far, we have not had an outbreak at AMHS," said principal of Archbishop Murphy High School on March 24.
Spitters said as sports move from outdoors to indoors, risk goes up for COVID-19 spread.
The close contact for sports is part of what spikes the risk, he said, adding that people meeting in parking lots, unmasked, during practice and events is part of what is increasing risk. While outdoor interaction is safer than indoor due to the ventilation, some sports such as basketball and volleyball are indoors.
The blanket advice for preventing COVID-19 remains to stay masked and apart, and reserve close-contact for "the bubble" of a small group of people, seen daily.
The limit on new and widening interactions reduces the risk of exponential spread, a term that describes spread of a viral illness from one person to all contacts, and from all contacts to everyone each of those people comes in contact with.
"Schools, teachers and students are doing a great job with prevention measures in the classroom," he said.
In other school-settings, things were going well also, he said. But contact-tracing showed more vigilance is needed in the sports realm, off the field.
Mask free meet-ups in parking lots as well as time in locker rooms, bus rides, and carpools are areas of concern.
"When breaking for snacks or water and get togethers, social get togethers, outside of the sporting event itself among teammates," he said, is when people are taking infection-risks.
He said the new cases from those circumstances are a reminder so just a reminder to "keep up your guard 24/7."
"Masks should be worn when you're around people you don't live with. Spread out in a bus, limit carpools, when available keep the windows cracked," Spitters said. He said to wash your hands use hand sanitizer frequently, as well as sanitizing high-touch surfaces like door handles, seatbelts, steering wheels, cell phones, and sports the equipment.