A new quarantine scenario arose for Scarsdale High School on Tuesday, Feb. 16. In an email to parents, district administration alerted the community that an unspecified team was ordered to quarantine retroactive the last date of contact, which was at practice Wednesday, Feb. 10.
The team had two positive cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday the 16th. The athletes were last in school Feb. 11, but the district opted to quarantine only the team “to be sure there is no additional spread.”
The athletes, some of whom may have been traveling over the vacation week, will be released from their 10-day quarantine after Saturday, Feb. 20. The quarantine period technically began the day after potential exposure.
The New York State Department of Health guidelines for quarantines changed in early January as “close contact” was redefined and no longer impacts anyone who was in the room with someone later found to be positive. The current guidance is anyone who was within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive person for 10 minutes or more over a period of 24 hours. The 10 minutes is cumulative — it does not have to be consecutive.
The school’s email said, “This may be a case of spread during a school activity,” though athletic director Ray Pappalardi confirmed to the Inquirer Tuesday evening that there is no way to prove or disprove that. That language was used because multiple members of the team tested positive. Up until now there was no reason to believe there had been any school or extracurricular spread this academic year.
Pappalardi said the district was able to use the quarantined team’s coach’s practice plans for that day, in addition to a discussion on how those plans were executed, to determine what type of quarantine would be necessary, if any.
Pappalardi said it’s a case-by-case situation, giving examples of sports like football and wrestling. For football, the defense may not practice with the offense or special teams on a given day, while wrestling is typically practicing in pods, so in those cases it would not require widespread quarantine.
“We have protocols in place and I believe at this time all the protocols were continually followed in all of our practices,” Pappalardi said. “We’ve always retraced our steps to see how things were implemented and if there are any improvements that need to be made. Do I see this as something that was going to happen anyway? I can’t tell you I feel that way. I think we are doing our best to make the experience for kids in sports as safe as possible.”
When asked if he will still feel comfortable with the impacted team practicing once quarantine is over, in addition to the other sports, Pappalardi said, “We’ll continue to reflect on our protocols and make improvements where we can and try to continue to provide as much of an athletic experience for as many kids as we possibly can as safely as we can. We don’t look to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything.”
Potential for spread of the virus, especially with COVID-19’s high rate of asymptomatic cases, has been a challenge in reopening schools in September and starting school sports late that month.
“This will continue to be a challenge and we’ll continue to work hard for our kids and I think that’s the best we can do,” Pappalardi said.
As per Westchester County Department of Health guidelines, on Feb. 8, the Scarsdale Board of Education unanimously approved high-risk winter sports basketball and ice hockey for competition, and wrestling and cheerleading for practice only, with the ability to revisit wrestling for this season should county guidance on masking change or get clarified. Fall 2 high-risk sports football, volleyball and cheerleading have yet to be discussed in depth by the BOE, nor has high-risk spring sport boys lacrosse.
“My hope is as we enter the spring and we go outdoors that we benefit from the low- and moderate-risk sports and being outdoors,” Pappalardi said. “I’m hopeful that we can continue to offer programs that meet the needs of kids.”