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San Diego School Officials Say Few COVID-19 Cases Coming From Sports

Soccer ball at Mance Buchanon Park in Oceanside where the Oceanside Breakers soccer team practice with COVID-19 restrictions. Nov. 12, 2020.
Nicholas McVicker
Soccer ball at Mance Buchanon Park in Oceanside where the Oceanside Breakers soccer team practice with COVID-19 restrictions. Nov. 12, 2020.

As school districts across San Diego County begin resuming in-person learning, other states are seeing surges in COVID-19 cases among student athletes.

San Diego Unified School District is set to resume in-person instruction on Monday, but school sports have been in full swing for two months. Jorge Palacios, the athletic director at Mission Bay High School, said his school has only had one positive COVID-19 case so far among student athletes.

RELATED: Half Of San Diego Unified Students Expected To Return To Classrooms Next Week

“We’ve definitely made some adjustments,” Palacios said. “I think the community’s doing a good job of recognizing that it’s a difficult situation and rising to that challenge and doing what’s necessary to get it so the kids can actually play and have some semblance of a sports year.”

But in other states like Michigan and Minnesota youth sports have contributed to a fourth surge in cases. Rebecca Fielding-Miller, an assistant professor of public health at UC San Diego, said their experiences should be a cautionary tale for San Diego.

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“Numbers are coming down in San Diego County, which is fabulous,” Fielding-Miller said. “But we’re also seeing more of these variants of concern. In particular B117, which we’re seeing in Italy and Israel, is really being associated with outbreaks in significantly younger people.”

In the Poway Unified School District, students have been back on campus for weeks and athletes have been on the field for months. In March, there were a total of 65 positive cases among students and staff at the district. But among athletes, specifically, there have been fewer than a dozen cases and no team outbreaks, said David LeMaster, the district’s executive director of learning support services.

RELATED: San Diego County School Districts Detail Plans For Return To In-Person Learning

LeMaster credits the district’s safety protocols.

“That includes informed consent by the parents, students are wearing masks, physical distancing as much as possible, and the most important caveat is that we’re testing our students on a regular basis,” LeMaster said.

LeMaster said coaches are urging student athletes to continue social distancing and other safety measures when they’re not at school.