It’s the million-dollar question: when will student athletes be allowed to continue summer practice now that Greenville has been designated a COVID-19 “hotspot” by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control?
Answer: when it is safe in accord with the recommendations and advice of the medical and public health officials.
Last week, DHEC released a four-page fact sheet to help school districts determine the risk of exposing students to COVID-19. The metrics pull from three different categories: number of cases in the last two weeks per 100,000 population, case direction (decreasing, stable, increasing) and the number of positive results out of individual tests. Each category is assigned a label of “low,” “medium” or “high,” then all three categories are combined for an average. Two lows and one medium indicates a low spread. One low and two mediums is a medium spread. Two mediums and one high is also medium, while one medium and two highs signals a high rate of spread.
On the day these metrics were released, Greenville County ranked high in all three categories with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increasing.
We had no choice but to temporarily suspend all summer sports activities.
“Suspending practices was extremely disappointing because we were doing the right things,” said Darryl Nance, Director of Athletics for Greenville County Schools.
Nance said students, coaches and especially parents went above and beyond in making sure safety guidelines from the South Carolina High School League were followed. But after three days of practice, COVID-19 cases in Greenville County spiked, though none of the cases involved students or their coaches.
“We were in an increasing COVID-19 environment with high transmission rates and the county ranked high in all three categories. Ultimately, it wasn’t worth the risk to continue summer practice,” Nance said.
The reality is this: if school was scheduled to begin tomorrow, in-person classes would be out of the question under these current conditions. The school year would start with virtual classes only, and if that were the case, other student activities including fall sports would be cancelled!
The good news is, we still have a chance to change things for the better. DHEC has promised to update the spread-rate of COVID-19 each week.
“It is vital that we take the appropriate actions now as recommended by the medical and public health professionals to minimize spread and reverse the rapidly increasing numbers of cases in our community and state. Reversing this disturbing trend now is essential for a return to a regular school setting in August and to allow for a Fall sports season,” said Dr. Burke Royster, Superintendent of Greenville County Schools.
Greenville County Schools is closely monitoring conditions and will review our decision each time DHEC releases new county level date. Until then, the school district will adhere to the scientifically-based and medically-proven metrics provided to school districts. We must do better if our goal is to return to some semblance of normal.