KENT COUNTY, Mich. — The Kent County Health Department is reporting an increased number of COVID-19 cases within boys and girls basketball players within the county.
Now, they've introduced new guidelines for teams with the state tournament beginning next week.
"We've already been through a really tough year," said Forest Hills Northern boys basketball coach, Joe Soules, "I don't think we can change the goal posts, or where the endzone is, when the game is almost to the finish line."
A lot of local coaches and players are frustrated with the new guidelines, which were released on Friday afternoon.
The major change is now any team who has played someone who has recently tested positive must quarantine for ten days, which differs from the prior guideline of only quarantining those in close contact of that specific player.
Now, the players are now nervous they could get shutdown after playing a game.
"It's very scary," admitted Forest Hills Northern senior guard, Trinidad Chambliss, "we have to be cautious."
Grand Rapids Christian boys basketball coach Eric Taylor says he understands the decision, but he's worried about an uneven playing field as the state tournament begins.
"It's one of those scenarios where the other counties are operating under other protocols," Taylor said, "so I'm not sure it's a level playing ground but I think for Kent County, what they're doing is the right thing to do."
The Kent County Health Department has reported to FOX 17 that since February 8th, 51-percent of county high schools have had at least one COVID-19 case within a level of their basketball program.
Joann Hoganson is the Director of Community Wellness for the KCHD and says while she understands the timing isn't ideal, they're hopeful the cases can go down over the next week or so.
"If we can break that chain of transmission now, then we have better chances of these high schools going into [and completing] their tournament, which is now just a week away," Hoganson said.
But the timing has now forced varsity basketball teams across the county, including Grand Rapids Christian and Forest Hills Northern to cancel the remainder of their regular seasons this week, in order to ensure they're healthy and able to compete in districts.
"The timing made us make a decision that we otherwise wouldn't have had to make," added Taylor, who canceled the final four games on the schedule.
Meanwhile, Forest Hills Northern will do the same, praying they'll be able to stay healthy and compete for a state championship.
We're being very proactive and saying we aren't going to play any games this coming week and getting ready for the state tournament and honestly, hopefully we don't have any contact tracing within [Forest Hills] Northern," Soules said.
After last season's tournament was canceled ahead of the district championships, the players say they'll do whatever it takes to finish the season properly this time around.
"I think it's important that we complete the tournament because we didn't have an opportunity to last year," said Grand Rapids Christian guard, Sam Versteeg, "it got taken from us, so I think that's a main reason why we're foregoing the last four games of the season."
Players like Versteeg and Trinidad Chambliss of Forest Hills Northern say the tournament is now their focus.
"We wanted to finish our season off with as many games as possible in the regular season but with the new rule, it'll be safe for us to sit out and cancel the rest of the games regular season and hopefully compete in the state tournament," Chambliss said.
The health department says these guidelines will likely remain in place for the next three weeks, which likely means the rest of the state tournament with the girls basketball state finals on April 9 and the boys on April 10.