Positive COVID-19 tests among Kenai Peninsula and state high school football teams affected several games last weekend.
In Homer, the Mariners football and volleyball teams lost several members after they tested positive for COVID-19. However, Homer had enough players to send a team to Eagle River last Saturday, according to Homer High School Athletic Director Chris Perk.
Kenai Central’s varsity and junior varsity football games scheduled for Saturday were canceled after a positive COVID-19 test in the program. Soldotna’s junior varsity and varsity football games against West Valley, scheduled for Friday in Soldotna, were canceled, according to Soldotna’s athletic director Kyle McFall.
The Kardinals varsity had been scheduled to open the season Saturday at Barrow, while the junior varsity had been scheduled to open the season Saturday at Soldotna.
Jesse Settlemyer, the Kardinals athletic director, said the school learned about the positive test last Wednesday morning. After learning about the positive test, the school worked to determine close contacts of the player. After determining close contacts, the school decided to cancel the games out of an abundance of caution, according to Settlemyer.
“We’re always going to act in the best interest of our athletes’ health and safety,” Settlemyer said. “That’s our first and foremost concern.”
Dustin Akana, the Kenai head coach, said the team will take the steps necessary to get back on the field.
“We have a lot of players really looking forward to this season,” Akana said. “All we can do it take the right steps to get back on track to compete this season.”
Soldotna Athletic Director Kyle McFall wrote in an email the games have been canceled because of a positive COVID-19 case on the West Valley football team.
McFall wrote that the school is in discussions with the officials association and district administration about the possibility of rescheduling.
Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski announced the sports cancelations last Thursday in a letter sent out to students, parents and staff. Contact tracing has been done and some members who tested positive or are close contacts will be quarantining for the eight-day required period.
Waclawski wrote in his letter that new protocols apply depending on if a person is vaccinated or unvaccinated.
“If you are vaccinated, then you don’t have to quarantine,” Perk said.
Since some team members have quarantined, that means they were not vaccinated. Perk said teams do not track who has been vaccinated, and that would only be information provided to health care providers or contact tracers.
Perk said the football coaches have been doing a good job trying to keep COVID-19 from infecting the team.
“They can spread out. They’re aware how to minimize close contact on the team,” he said.
Perk said the athletic department isn’t making any special push to get players vaccinated.
“Obviously, I’m telling them the facts,” he said. “If your kids are vaccinated, they wouldn’t have to quarantine.”
He also noted that having more players vaccinated means fewer disruptions to the team. Vaccines are available to children 12 and older, but require parental consent for those younger than 18.
Athletic testing protocols go into effect on Monday, with weekly antigen testing for all athletes, Perk said.
In his letter, Waclawski wrote that people who notice symptoms of illness should stay home and get a test. For more information, he said parents or students can call the school at 907-235-8186. They also can visit the school district COVID-19 website at covid19.kpbsd.org.