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Brooke sets athletic plan to deal with COVID-19

WELLSBURG — Paying close attention to what has been transpiring with area schools shutting down their athletic conditioning and workouts this week, Brooke County Schools announced its formal plan should one of its athletes test positive.

The school district released the “Brooke County Schools Athletic COVID-19 Exposure Response Plan” on social media Friday, becoming what’s believed to be the first OVAC member to formally announce a plan to deal with coronavirus in the weeks leading up to the start of formal fall practices, which is Aug. 3 in West Virginia.

“There’s a fine line between being cautious and hitting the panic button,” Brooke High School Director of Athletics Sean Blumette said. “The volume of what we’re seeing (around the area) is where exposure rate might be higher, but we’re, hopefully, not anticipating a major volume.”

Following recommendations from the state of West Virginia, the Secondary Schools Activies Commission, Brooke County Health Department and the National Federation of High Schools, Brooke devised an eight-step protcol that will be followed by all of its athletic teams.

“We’re waiting on further guidance (for August), but we expect this plan will take us through the rest of the summer,” Blumette pointed out. “Even with the additional guidelines, I don’t think we’ll differ much from what we’re currently doing.”

In the exposure response plan, any athlete suspected on being exposed to notify his or her respective coach, who will then inform Blumette, the building principal and the county (schools) office.

The Brooke Co. Health Department is then contacted and the school district remains in contact with the athlete’s family in an attempt to make a determination as to whether or not a test should be conducted.

Meanwhile, the athletics director will review contact tracing sheets to determine the extent of the athlete’s participation.

That step, according to Blumette, is made easier because each athlete is signing in when he or she arrives at a workout and in the SSAC’s phase approach, the groups are smaller for the bigger sports.

“That monitoring will go a long way in helping us to figure out who all the athlete was involved with,” Blumette said.

Once it’s determined what groups might be affected, the A.D. informs the groups and head coach, who in turn relays information to the parents.

Any group with an athlete with a possible exposure will be suspended, pending test results.

For instance, if Athlete A is part of football’s group one and believes he has COVID-19, just group one will be suspended, pending the test results. The other remaining groups — and sports — may continue with workouts.

It will also be recommended that the athlete in question quarantine.

The seventh step of the plan reads, “any positive test will result in a 14-day suspension and quarantine of all programs and notification of all athletic coaches and families.”

Those workouts would not be permitted to resume until there’s reciept of a negative test.

Along with these steps, Brooke — like many schools — is monitoring when its athletes go on vacation, but not requiring them to quarantine upon their return.

“We want to be careful with where the exposure might have happened,” Blumette said. “We’re going to assume that most of the exposures are coming off campus.”

While Brooke can’t begin official practice until the first Monday of August, the three-week summer coaching period, which is permitted by the SSAC, will commence — for all sports — on July 6.

“We’re still waiting on further guidance from the SSAC and we expect that sometime between now and mid July as we move into fall sports,” Blumette said.

Brooke will continue to monitor its student-athletes once the fall sports officially begin practices, asking the daily questions about symptoms.

Blumette also was highly complimentary of how well the student-athletes and their families have done with the current guidelines and restrictions.

“The cooperation we’ve received has been great,” Blumette said. “We’re all in this, together, with the same goal.”

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