As a new school year was dawning, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced last Friday that it was ramping up restrictions aimed at mitigating a recent spike in COVID-19 infections — rules requiring athletes to be tested for the virus.
In a later communication, the county set Sept. 1 as the date when the orders become effective, said David Irie, San Marino High School’s director of athletics and director of student experiences.
The county also said it is requiring all spectators, athletes and coaches to wear masks indoors. Volleyball players must wear their masks during competition and can take them off only when eating or drinking.
“Given the increase in community transmission of COVID-19 and the predominance of the more easily spread Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, masking indoors, regardless of vaccination status, is essential to slowing the spread” of the virus, said the county release that was received at the San Marino Unified School District. “The Delta variant … spreads more easily than strains of the virus that circulated in L.A. in the past.”
The orders include mandatory testing for all athletes and staff participating in “youth sports leagues,” which include all high school programs.
“At the current time with high community transmission occurring in Los Angeles County, routine testing is required for all athletes and staff participating in moderate or high-risk sports, regardless of vaccination status,” the document said.
The required cadence is a minimum of once per week though “testing two times per week is strongly recommended for unvaccinated participants and staff.” In addition, testing must be performed within 48 hours of any inter-team competition and results must be available before the competition begins or the athlete or staff member may not be present at the competition.”
Irie said that on Monday, the district tested its student-athletes who participate in girls’ volleyball and boys’ water polo in order to meet the advance timeline.
“We were being proactive because [the county at first set] no effective date and we have games scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, and we wanted to be in compliance,” Irie said. “Now we know the timeline.”
The public health department also said it is “strongly recommended” that all student athletes age 12 and older, coaches and team staff members be fully vaccinated.
“Vaccination against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available for everyone 12 years of age and older,” the release said. “Vaccination is the primary strategy to reduce the burden of COVID-19 disease and protect all members of the community.”
On Monday, Aug. 16, four students in district elementary schools tested positive for COVID-19, according to SMUSD officials. All parents of elementary school students received a general notice from the school principals informing them of the positive cases on campus, and the cases were also reported on the district’s COVID dashboard. Students who were identified as having been in close contact with the individuals testing positive received a separate notification from the school informing families that their child is required to quarantine for seven to 10 days.
On Friday, the district received information about a new confirmed case of COVID-19 at SMHS. On Wednesday, Aug. 18, a student learned that a sibling who is not enrolled at SMHS tested positive for COVID-19. The student’s parents immediately removed the student from campus after a full day of attendance and had the student tested by an outside agency. The student tested positive and the district conducted contract tracing.