COVID-19 is attempting to creep its way back into Cherokee County school system athletics.
Cherokee County High School recently had three football players test positive for the virus, but only with mild symptoms. Head coach Jacob Kelley said two of the Warrior athletes are still out as of Tuesday morning, but the third has returned to normal activities after being cleared.
Kelley said the Warrior weight room was shut down last week to help prevent any further outbreak.
The Lady Warrior volleyball team has also had an athlete with a recent positive test.
When contacted by WEIS Radio, none of the county’s other football or volleyball coaches said they have had issues with their athletes testing positive with COVID-19 during the summer as of Tuesday, although Spring Garden has had a COVID issue with a member of its coaching staff.
“I know our kids, our staff members, and our coaches, everybody’s resilient. They work through everything,” Cherokee County Schools Superintendent Mike Welsh said. “We can do what we need to do to mitigate the spread of the virus and continue to have sporting events and school. While we’re hopeful we don’t have to go those great lengths (like last year), we know we can do it. We’re going to do it as normally as we can, but we certainly know we’ll do whatever we have to in order to give these kids a (sports) season.”
Welsh said although everyone is still hopeful we can have a normal year, “it does look like we may have to revert to at least some of the protocols we had last year.”
“Athletically, it’s going to be a challenge again, just like it was last year,” he said. “Everybody is announcing from colleges on down that stadiums are going to be full capacity. I know everybody’s hopeful of that, and I hope we can continue to do some of that without having to limit crowd sizes, ticket sales and such as that, but we’ll continue to pay attention to the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama High School Athletic Association to see how they guide us in the next few days. We obviously communicate with them and we’ll figure out what kind of guidance they want to give as far as our sporting events go.”
Welsh commended the Cherokee County School System’s coaches for their efforts since the pandemic began last year.
“They all want to give the kids a (sports) season, and they do what’s necessary,” Welsh said. “Coaches preach that to kids all the time in how to win a ball game you just do what you have to do. You win the next play. That’s kind of the way we attack COVID. They did a great job with it last year. We’ve just been so hopeful we don’t have to worry about this thing, but I know they can come through.”
Welsh encourages those who can and haven’t been vaccinated do so to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“While we don’t make it mandatory, and we don’t intend on making it mandatory, the Department of Public Health and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), they recognize the vaccine can help,” Welsh said. “The key I think is to get more and more people in our community vaccinated. Now that our high school age kids can be vaccinated, I think that’s a big key.
“A motivation for a lot of players, a lot of student athletes, is going to be the fully vaccinated won’t have to quarantine due to close contact at this particular point. That would help tremendously in having a full football and volleyball season and moving to the indoor sports in the winter. That’s a personal choice, a family choice, but I hope more and more people see the need to get vaccinated because I do think that’s our No. 1 way to have school, to have sporting events, and just normal activities in our community.”
Fall practice for football and volleyball officially begins Monday, Aug. 2. The first contests of the fall season can begin Aug. 19.
The Cherokee County School System begins its new school year on Aug. 9.