COVID-19 testing for Henrico winter sports athletes, coaches starts Monday

Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 3:56 PM EST
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - As Henrico County high schoolers wrap up their tryouts for winter sports this week, COVID-19 testing will begin on Monday for those who are not vaccinated.

Earlier this fall, Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) announced all unvaccinated winter sports athletes and coaches would be required to get tested weekly. The same goes for middle school winter sports athletes and coaches.

However, for those hoping for changes to the requirement, school leaders said Thursday it will not happen.

“What we’re trying to put into place is to head off any potential issues; to keep students in the classroom and also keep the least amount of disruption to their athletic seasons,” said John Carroll, Specialist for Student Activities with HCPS.

Henrico Schools is taking part in the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program. It is a joint effort between the CDC, Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Education offering school systems another mitigation strategy.

The program officially launched for Henrico in late October, which is why fall sports did not see this requirement.

“When we look at the winter sports you’re talking about coming inside, you’re talking about folks being in much closer contact,” Carroll said.

However, some people have concerns over who will be tested.

All unvaccinated middle and high school winter sports athletes and coaches are required to get swabbed once a week. Vaccinated athletes and coaches are not.

“I’ve been told too that it’s creating more division, that we’re being discriminatory,” said Brookland District school board member Kristi Kinsella.

Many people sharing those same thoughts in public comment sent to school board leaders.

“Testing only unvaccinated students is discriminatory and wrong,” said one man. “This is not equitable or inclusive. Tragically, it’s normalizing medical discrimination. Make it a choice to test and allow athletes to play regardless if they choose to test or not. Or if you can’t offer this choice - Test all players and coaches regardless of vaccination status. Vaccinated people can carry and transmit this virus too. Stop normalizing division based on personal medical choice.”

Some people noted, vaccinated individuals can still contract and transmit COVID-19.

“I think the information that we’ve gotten from the CDC and other places that it’s much more of a smaller chance for a student who is vaccinated to have one of these breakthrough cases as it would be if you’re not vaccinated,” Carroll said.

However, there is also strong support for the measure.

“I’m in agreement with school testing for screening purposes to capture outbreaks before they occur in school,” wrote one woman. “It seems prudent to allocate resources to this particular endeavor to mitigate transmission specially going into winter season.”

Even if you are vaccinated, school leaders said you can opt to get tested.

You will swab yourself in front of medical professionals.

“This is just literally at the lower, quarter to a half an inch of the nasal cavity that they’re swabbing with a soft cotton swab,” said HCPS Chief of Staff Dr. Beth Teigen.

“We have their health, and the health of the coaches are our number one priority,” Carroll added.

Each school will be assigned a specific day and time for testing. Those results are expected to return less than 24 hours later.

Testing for high school athletes and coaches will begin Monday, Nov. 15. Tryouts for middle school winter sports will commence on Nov. 15 with testing set to begin on Nov. 29.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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