OPHS athlete tests positive for COVID-19


Amanda Dermott / Talon

The football field is the site of many athletic practices and one of the few places students assemble on campus

A positive COVID-19 test for an Oak Park High School athlete has been confirmed. The last day the student who tested positive was at practice was Oct. 8, 2020. This is one of the four OPHS-related confirmed positive tests since the beginning of the school year, according to a spreadsheet the Oak Park Unified School District’s  website. Names and specifics have been withheld from this article to protect the student’s right to privacy. 

While it is believed that the student did not actually become infected until Oct. 9, there is no way to know for sure when the virus was contracted. To be safe, the team is operating under the assumption that it is possible that the student was infected during the Oct. 8 practice. 

“We group kids into pods of up to 14, and that whole group always stays together. Right now, they’re doing everything together and not mingling with other groups,” an OPHS coach said. “The reason we’re in those pods is for a situation like this.”

The pod system was implemented to make contact tracing easier. The other students who were in the pod with the student who contracted COVID-19 have been made aware of their exposure and asked to quarantine for two weeks. Students are eligible to return to campus on Oct. 23. 

“Each member of the cohort is required to provide a negative COVID-19 test prior to returning to campus after the quarantine period,” Special Safety and Equity Counselor Holly Baxter wrote to the Talon. “We are thankful to our families who took this situation seriously, enacted home quarantine measures, and assisted us in stopping the spread of coronavirus in Oak Park and its surrounding communities.”

While having in-person athletic practices comes with risks, players believe there are benefits.

“I am glad that I decided to play during COVID because it had been such a long time since I had seen some of the people on my team,” a team member wrote to the Talon.

Athletic practices are one of the few places that students can get in-person social interaction during distance learning.

“The interaction is worth the risk. During quarantine, you know you start to miss the social interactions, and if you don’t get that for a very long time it can start to take a toll on a person,” the team member wrote.

Coaches are working to be careful in planning and carrying out practices to minimize risk. For the first two weeks that the sport was in person, no equipment was used.

“We tried to do more [sport]-specific drills on the field, and then a group on the track worked on speed training techniques. We had another group in a different area with yoga mats doing more high-intensity interval training push-ups, sit-ups [and] cardio,” the OPHS coach said.

Students recognize the efforts that coaches and administration have put into making practices a safe environment for players.

“I see all of the things that coaches are doing like wearing masks, sanitizing the stations, taking temperatures, and more,” the team member wrote. “It makes me feel like they are doing the best that they can possibly do to make sure we are all safe.”

The coach emphasized that it is important to treat people who test positive with respect and to not blame anyone for what happened.

“Even the student who got it tried to take as many safety precautions as possible,” the coach said. “People are expected to get it, and all we can do is take as many precautions as we can.”