A positive COVID-19 test of a player in the Long Beach Poly football program has canceled multiple games this week and caused confusion about how the season will function going forward.
Tuesday afternoon the Poly social media channels posted a message stating that this week’s game between Poly and Wilson had been canceled, a message confirmed by Poly vice principal Matt Brown.
“We’re disappointed of course, we’re heartbroken,” said Brown. “Be that as it may we always want to put the health and safety of students and staff first. We would love to have seen them play, though.”
Poly coaches and athletic directors declined comment on the situation, referring comment to Brown.
“We’re disappointed obviously, but everyone has to put health and safety first,” said Wilson football coach Mark Ziegenhagen. The game was to be the 89th meeting between Poly and Wilson, in a rivalry series that dates back to 1932. This will be the first school year without a Poly Wilson game since the series began.
“We got our first ever football win in March and it’ll be the first year without that game,” said Ziegenhagen.
Multiple sources in the Long Beach Unified School District said that the positive test happened over the weekend, for a player who competed in last Friday’s game between Poly and Lakewood. According to sources the player was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms over the weekend and got a test, which came back positive. Both the Poly and Lakewood football programs have stopped practicing and are quarantining due to what Brown said were CDC guidelines.
As a result, this week’s football game between Lakewood and Jordan has also been canceled, and Jordan and Wilson will instead play at Jordan this Friday at 7 p.m. The two teams will also carry on their previously scheduled game at Wilson next Thursday at 7 p.m. Poly is scheduled to play Compton next Thursday and Lakewood is scheduled to play Millikan.
Lakewood coach Scott Meyer has already had a game canceled this year after a positive test on his team that came to light the day of their scheduled season opener against St. Anthony. California Department of Public Health guidelines required weekly testing of football players when the COVID-19 case rate was at 14 or higher, which it was for the first week of games but not since.
Meyer expressed frustration at what he sees as a lack of organization on the part of the LBUSD.
“There’s no consistency and no plan,” he said. “When we had a kid test positive before our first game they told us, ‘Do what you think is best’ and we decided ourselves to cancel it, and we took heat over that. Now there’s a positive test and we can’t practice for two weeks. We’ve been asking for the plan since Fall and nobody gave us one. So every day the plan is being played out in real time.”
Meyer also said that since he was told his team can’t practice until the middle of next week, they won’t be playing Millikan next Thursday.
“I’m not going to do it,” he said. “I’m not going to put our kids in that position.”
Adding to the confusion among football programs is what seem to be mixed messages regarding restarting. Meyer said he was told Lakewood couldn’t practice until mid-next week, while Brown said his understanding was that Poly could begin practicing again on Monday.
The California Department of Public Health has been widely criticized by youth sports coaches and officials for providing guidance that is too vague, and there’s almost no official language in their guidance about how teams and schools are supposed to proceed after a positive test.
There’s nothing in the guidelines about teams quarantining after a single positive test for example; the guidance states that “all athletes and staff who test positive or are clinically diagnosed with COVID-19 must isolate for 10 days after symptoms first appeared (or 10 days after specimen collection for their first positive test) AND at least 24 hours have passed with no fever…AND other symptoms have improved.” That would suggest that players who test positive have to quarantine for 10 days, not entire programs or opposing teams who had exposure.
LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou said he didn’t have information beyond what Brown has when asked about Poly and Lakewood’s restart dates.