NPHS football player tests positive for COVID

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NEW PALESTINE — Three days away from the start of the 2020-21 school year, Southern Hancock officials announced Friday, July 31, that one of the school’s football players had tested positive for COVID-19.

The student-athlete and others in his designated workout group, along with anyone who came into close contact with the athlete, are being asked to quarantine for 14 days, said Wes Anderson, community relations director for the district.

“If you think this virus is just going to skip over our small town, you’re wrong,” Anderson said. “This was in our plans, our blueprint for reopening, and we’re proceeding with our normal protocol as we will on Monday as well.” School starts Monday, Aug. 3.

District officials, who have had a plan for re-entering schools and participating in sports for weeks, followed state and local health departments’ contact tracing protocol. They reached out to everyone they believe came in contact with the player and advised parents to quarantine their children for 14 days.

The rest of the team was notified of the positive case via email Friday morning and was told: “If you have not been contacted by the district’s corporation nurse, your athlete was not identified as being in close contact with the positive case,” the email said.

Practice was canceled Thursday, July 30, because of weather, Anderson said, but it was also called off Friday out of an abundance of caution after the positive test. Players who were not a part of the infected player’s workout group expected to be back on the field Monday, which is the official start of fall sports mandatory team practices. New Palestine’s first game is Aug. 21.

Anderson couldn’t say the number of student-athletes who might have been exposed, but noted they are following the criteria for close-contact encounters, which is a distance of less than 6 feet for 15 minutes or more. Those students are being asked to quarantine.

“We do a lot of work, and our weightlifting in small groups with the kids, and we’ve always done it that way, but it lends itself nicely for this purpose,” Anderson said. “We have asked those kids who were in close contact (in that workout group) to quarantine.”

Earlier this week, district administrators held the last of their live talk sessions with community members and answered last-minute questions.

Anderson said the school district is sending out reminders to parents to make sure their child is feeling well before sending them to school and is following hygiene guidelines.

While students are being asked to have their own masks, the district does have some 40,000 disposable masks if a student loses or forgets one. The district is also supplying every student with a cloth mask, supplied from the governor’s office, Superintendent Lisa Lantrip said.

Lantrip noted the district is planning on following the approved school calendar, but would make changes based on state recommendations due to the virus if necessary.

Anderson stressed on Friday a paramount concern: Parents should not send their children to school if they are sick.

Eastern Hancock schools also start on Monday, and Superintendent Dave Pfaff said officials are confident they can keep their buildings safe. Pfaff said the case at Greenfield Central Junior High didn’t make him feel hesitant about reopening.

“We are confident in our plan and we are confident in how we’ll handle any cases that might come up,” Pfaff said.