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BRAD ROBICHAUX — Stay vigilant, stick to the UIL’s guidelines

I want to give props to Memorial High School and Nederland High School.

They faced down the threat of COVID-19, took it seriously and did what was necessary, even though it meant once again putting athletics on hold for a little longer.

Nederland shut down summer workouts for its football program one day after the UIL allowed them to resume. The parent of one of the football players tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, workouts for the football team were discontinued until the athlete was tested. Once the test came back negative, Athletic Director Monte Barrow allowed workouts to resume last week.

Last Thursday, Memorial Athletic Director Brian Morgan announced one of its athletes was found to have a low-grade fever, and after interviews with the athlete conducted by athletic trainers, Memorial decided to send the athlete home to be tested, as well as suspend summer workouts for volleyball, girls basketball and girls soccer for 14 days, or until the athlete receives a negative COVID-19 test result.

I wouldn’t blame the athletes and coaches if news of their programs’ temporary suspension, after only just getting the chance to start up again, was met with a good bit of frustration.

Everyone seems to want to get back to work and get back to playing sports with their friends.

Memorial and Nederland rightly recognized health is more important, though.

They also showed the efficacy of the UIL’s guidelines. Those pre-practice screenings helped catch a potential exposure. Keeping the players practicing in smaller groups helped to mitigate that potential exposure, which allowed some programs to continue to work out.

By keeping groups small and disconnected, the process of contact tracing, which identifies the people a person has been in contact with, is much easier. There aren’t as many potential contacts to review that way.

Athletes might miss out on practicing with some of their friends or might not be able to conduct some of their drills due to a lack of people, but the trade-off, healthwise, makes the UIL’s rules worth the extra headache around the logistics in organizing sessions.

The trade-offs are worth it all around. Sticking to small groups, limiting workout times, implementing screening and sanitization practices all help keep a lid on the spread of the pandemic, which in turn helps keep these programs active.

So you have to wipe down the weightlifting equipment after every use?

That’s going to let you, the rest of your team and all of your school’s athletes continue to come to school and train.

Most important of all, though, is it helps keep athletes and coaches from getting sick.

For the athletes in girls basketball, soccer and volleyball at Memorial, I feel for you. It can’t be easy to go back to waiting for workouts to start back up again. Please keep in mind, though, the decisions by the UIL, Memorial officials and coaches are all done to best protect you and your teams from the virus, and to get you back to practicing as soon as possible.

Ricardo Serna, athletic trainer at Port Neches-Groves High School, said on Friday that PNG hasn’t yet had an instance of possible exposure, and the Indians are sticking closely to all of the UIL’s guidelines. I hope they don’t ever face an exposure, but I don’t have any reason to believe they won’t act with the same dispatch as Memorial or Nederland.

This is the new normal. For the sake of all athletes, coaches and staff, continue to be vigilant. We’ll get through this pandemic.

 

Brad Robichaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at brad.robichaux@panews.com.