ROCKFORD, Mich. — Wednesday was the first day of COVID-19 rapid testing for fall athletes in the state of Michigan still competing for a state championship, all hoping to complete their seasons in the next few weeks.
For the Rockford football program, over 110 tests were administered to coaches and players on Wednesday morning after a lot of work to make it all happen.
"I couldn't sleep last night, if I'm being honest with you," said Rockford athletic director, Cole Andrews.
Andrews and other athletic directors throughout the state with teams still competing, have been working around the clock this week to learn the process of rapid testing.
"We're just trying to see how this all plays out, we've never done this before," added Andrews, "we're a school and we're trying to be a lab right now."
The team was split into groups of 20, each scheduled 25 minutes apart as they'd enter the gymnasium with forms in hand, checking in with coaches and heading to a seat.
Once at that seat, the Rockford trainers and two employees from Spectrum Health were waiting to help supervise and administer the tests.
The rapid COVID-19 tests are underway at Rockford high school. Over 100 football players & coaches are getting tested today.— Zach Harig (@FOX17Zach) December 30, 2020
- Groups of 20, tables of 5
- Non-invasive nasal swab
- 15 minute wait for results
- Positive result would lead to a second test pic.twitter.com/vDchreH7JL
"You swab both noses, it's self administered," Andrews explained, "it's not the one that touches your brain like everyone is worried about. It's non-invasive and in 15 minutes you get your results."
And while it is different for the athletes to get tested and go through something like this, they say they'll do whatever it takes to get back on the field.
"It's really weird," admitted senior tight end, Brock Holwerda, "I've never had to do this, it's a different experience. It has been a crazy year for us, but I'd do this any day of the week to be on the field on Friday or Saturday."
Rockford head football coach Brent Cummings says he's simply proud of the way the team has handled this entire season.
"It seems like a huge deal, like we're in this laboratory setting, but the kids are just so resilient," Cummings said.
The rapid tests are all paid for by the health department and one raising concern is false positives. However, Andrews says there's a plan in place if a positive occurs.
"We have a next step process, they'll go to a primary physician and get a second test," explained Andrews, "I believe they're the PCR tests, so we'll run through that process but I'm not too worried about false positives."
If a positive were to occur on Wednesday or ahead of practices and competition, it doesn't necessarily mean a team would have to forfeit its season.
"We're social distancing, so there won't be any contact tracing here," added Andrews, "nobody else would have to sit out if we had a positive, we're sanitizing everything here, including the pens and we've put hours and hours into this process."
With over 110 tests administered on Wednesday, Andrews adds that there were zero positive tests within the program.
"The players have worked so hard to this point," added Brent Cummings, "they're excited to finish the season and very willing to go through these three testing days [per week]."
As it currently stands, the Rams will host Saline in a regional championship game at Carlson-Munger stadium on January 9.