GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Friday morning, the state announced that COVID-19 cases have increased 77 percent since mid-February. The group hardest hit was 10- to- 19-year-olds due to several outbreaks. So, they’ve decided to increase antigen testing for all student athletes within that age group.
“We can take these steps because we know what it takes to bring cases down and to stay safe,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a press conference Friday morning. “But, the path forward on further re-engagement depends on increasing rapid testing, and continuing to ramp up vaccinations.”
Dr. Joneigh Khladun added that the outbreaks were related to sports. In January and February, local health departments identified 315 outbreaks stemming from teams, clubs and other recreational events. So, the increased testing will begin on Monday, April 2.
“We’re just trying to figure out exactly what that’s going to entail, what resources we’re going to need,” said Ben Sherman, athletic director at Forest Hills Eastern High School. “Not just from getting test kits but are we going to need additional help and support for administering tests for our athletes? Can we break it up on several different days for different sports?”
Sherman said if they're required to test their student athletes a few times a week, that’ll be helpful for their athletic trainer who has been testing athletes routinely. However, if they’re required to do it every day, that’ll be tough.
“The personal information for all the student athletes--it’s all got to go into the database because you’re recording a medical record. So, that data input and entry is very time-consuming,” Sherman said during an interview with FOX 17. “As we go and increase [testing] there is a concern of where [the trainer] is going to be able to spend her time. Is it just going to be on testing, or are we going to be able to figure out ways for her to still work with our student athletes on injuries?”
T.J. Meerman, who coaches boys' basketball at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, said the changes don’t affect them until that April date. His main concern at this time is on Kent County’s new guidelines that they released last week.
“If either teams has a positive test, then both teams have to shut down for 10 days,” Meerman recalled. “If we would’ve played a game this week, and that would’ve happened to either team, we would’ve lost our entire playoff run.”
Right now that’s what they fear most, he said. It happened last year and it was devastating. Some students lost scholarships because they couldn’t visit the colleges that were offering them due to COVID restrictions.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association also held a press conference Friday afternoon stating that the order says that all remaining 900+ winter-sport athletes and upcoming spring-sport athletes will have to undergo rapid antigen testing.
Executive Director Mark Uyl said that Saturday, March 20 they’ll release testing guidelines and address frequency. However, at this time they do not know if it’ll include all spring-sport athletes.
Sherman believes that everyone will abide by the new orders whether they agree or not.
“My guess is they’re going to follow these things and do what they need to do,” Sherman said. “Because not only did they lose last year, starting a week later this year, they are itching to participate in those spring sports. They’ll do what they need to do.”