By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
An individual involved with the Oxford Wildcat football program tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), confirmed Jill Lemond, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Safety Operations for Oxford Community Schools.
This individual’s last contact with the high school football program came on July 29, and he was not present during the two-day Oxford Youth Football Camp on July 28-29.
In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Oxford Community Schools has requested the individual’s name not be revealed to the media.
The individual will be quarantined away from the program for two weeks, until at least August 12 in this case, and must record two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests before returning to action.
“All of our football conditioning has been following Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) guidelines, which includes temperature checks before practice,” Lemond said.
“These temperature checks are logged through an electronic health questionnaire that we require of every student-athlete, every day. We created this ourselves, we’re not paying for it, we have an in-house program that created it and it’s at hq.oxfordschools.org.
“It’s mandatory for student-athletes before they participate in any kind of conditioning or practice right now to fill that out daily, so, it’s only a 24-hour pass to enter the building, and we have touchless forehead thermometers for our trainers and coaching staffs to check kids.
“That helps us in a lot of ways because, when we had our positive case, the health department asked, ‘Who was this individual around?’ Well, I have a very extensive list of anyone this individual was around, time-stamped, for the day they’re looking for.”
First-year head coach Zach Line’s football program began their official fall practices on August 10, but, due to the MHSAA’s July 29 announcement, the earliest the student-athletes can wear pads and conduct contact drills is August 17, just 11 days ahead of their scheduled season-opener.
This confirmed case did not impact the summer conditioning practices, they were able to proceed without the individual present.
“Per the MHSAA, which is different than the school’s set of rules, if there’s more than one individual (who tests positive) within one team, if there’s two or more, then they shut down that activity for two weeks,” Lemond divulged.
“If two or more activities, for example, if the tennis team and the football team had a case, we would shut down all activities for 14 days.”
The MHSAA is expected to announce further details for sports deemed “moderate and high-risk,” boys’ soccer, football, and volleyball, by Thursday, August 20. These sports have been cleared to begin practice but not competition, like “low-risk” sports, boys’ tennis, cross country, girls’ golf, and girls’ swimming and diving, have.
On July 17, the governing body had shared their plans to have all fall sports proceed as scheduled but backtracked slightly just 12 days later, presumably due to pressure from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) office.
“They’re not really giving any indication,” Director of Athletics Jordan Ackerman said about the looming MHSAA decision.
“I’m not leaning one way or the other, but we’re going to be prepared to take the fields and courts.”
As we have seen with Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) since they returned to their respective action, life for spectators at events will be different this fall, as well.
“What the MHSAA has put out so far, they’re indicating it’s definitely going to be a small amount of people, if they allow fans at all,” Ackerman shared.
Lemond added the number is expected to be capped at 100 individuals per athletic event, including the players and coaching staffs. For football games, in many cases, the players and coaches will take up most, or possibly even exceed, this limit, meaning Wildcat fans might have to wait to see their new-look program in action.
While it is not the same as attending an event in-person, Oxford High School is planning to stream their games, including at the freshman and junior varsity level, through Oxford Community Television (OCTV) to allow community members and interested individuals to still view the contest as it unfolds.
College football and the National Football League (NFL) have seen players opt-out of the upcoming season, due to health concerns. Michigan State Spartans senior defensive end Jacub Panasiuk and offensive tackle classmate Jordan Reid, a Detroit Cass Technical product, have elected to take this route and return to action in 2021.
Purdue Boilermakers redshirt sophomore wide receiver Rondale Moore, one of the Big Ten Conference’s (B1G) most electrifying players, joined the steadily increasing list of opt-outs on August 6, too.
Ackerman has not had any Oxford student-athletes inform him of their intent to sit out the season and does not anticipate any moving forward. Collegiate student-athletes have the option to redshirt and preserve a year of eligibility, a luxury not afforded to high school students.
Wildcat student-athletes are not required to produce an independent, third-party negative COVID-19 test before participating this fall. The symptom screener and temperature checks, which use 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit as the threshold, are sufficient.
If a student-athlete records a temperature above the threshold twice in one day, they are sent home for the day. Two checks are conducted because of the possibility of the first being a false high reading. Should a student-athlete check-in above 100.4 degrees for two-straight days, the athletic training staff becomes involved and handles the situation with that student and their family on a case-by-case basis.
As an important distinction, only student-athletes are required to undergo daily temperature checks, not the general student body. Oxford High School, which is committed to conducting in-person instruction this fall, has decided not to test every student, at the advice of one of their legal teams, due to privacy concerns.
Additional information about the MHSAA is available at mhsaa.com and on Twitter, @MHSAA.