COVID Issue Will Keep McMinn County From Advancing In State Playoffs

Monday, November 16, 2020

A COVID-19 issue involving a McMinn County football player will keep the Cherokees from advancing in the playoffs, the TSSAA has ruled.

McMinn County traveled to Dobyns-Bennett on Friday night, but the game was called off just before kickoff.

A TSSAA letter says attempts were made to play the game on Tuesday night, but that did not work out. Therefore, Dobyns-Bennett will be advancing and the season is over for the Cherokees.

The letter says the issues involves a McMinn County player who is in virtual learning only and had traveled to the game Friday with his parents.

Here is the letter:

Gentlemen:

The football game between your schools that was scheduled to be played on Friday November 13, 2020, was not played due to concerns that a McMinn County player who was allegedly traveling with the team had tested positive for COVID-19. Based on the judgment of Dr. Andrew Stephen May of the Sullivan County Health Department and Dr. Tim Jones, the Chief Medical Officer for the Tennessee Department of Health, the game was called off

Over the weekend, additional information that was not known to Dr. May and Dr. Jones at the time was brought to the attention of TSSAA by representatives of McMinn County High School. The student-athlete in question was taking virtual classes only and was only at the school in the afternoons for football practice. According to the McMinn County football coach, this player was ill at practice on Tuesday November 10 and was sent home and had not been around any other McMinn County players since that time. The student underwent testing for COVID-19 at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday November 12 and was informed that he had a positive result. However, he suffers from asthma, and on the morning of November 13 he was examined by his physician. His physician found that he had no stigmata consistent with COVID-19 and that his O2 saturation was 98 with no fever. His COVID antibody test was negative for IgG. On this basis, the physician concluded that the student’s positive COVID test result on November 12 might be a false positive.

The McMinn County High School Football COVID-19 Protocols limit the number of players in the weight room at a given time. At practice, players are not allowed in groups and are not to be around anyone for more than 30 seconds. No huddles are used, and drills and activities are conducted in a way to maintain social distancing. The player in question says that during the week’s practices he was never within six feet of anyone for fifteen minutes or more.

While the McMinn County team traveled to the November 13 game by bus, the player in question traveled separately in a car with his parents. When the team stopped for a team meal, the player and his parents ate in a separate part of the restaurant away from the team. During that team meal the Coordinated School Health Supervisor informed the player that he would not be permitted to participate in the game.

The TSSAA COVID-19 Sports Regulations require that “[a]ny student or staff who has been in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or longer) of a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 must quarantine at home for a period of 14 days from their last exposure to that individual.” The McMinn County High School Reported Case Protocol requires contact tracing for any individual either 48 hours prior to symptom onset if symptomatic or 48 hours prior to test date if asymptomatic.

Based on all of this information, TSSAA has attempted to find a way that the game between the two schools could be played on Tuesday November 17. After consultation with state health officials, we asked that McMinn County High School provide verification from the McMinn County Health Department attesting that the school has adequately performed the necessary contact tracing and ensured that any player other than the student in question with whom he had close contact in the 48 hours before he reported to practice ill on November 10 is quarantined and will not be participating in a game if played on November 17. We informed school officials that we had to receive that verification on November 16 in order for the contest to go forward on November 17.

Unfortunately, we did not receive the needed verification from the McMinn County Health Department. We therefore have no alternative but to call off the game and advance Dobyns-Bennett High School in the playoffs. We have all known that in the time of this pandemic, something like this could occur; but we are sorry the players from the two schools will not get to play this contest. We appreciate all the efforts that representatives from both schools made to get us all the information we needed or requested and to deal with this difficult situation.

Sincerely,

Bernard Childress Executive Director


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