Virus tests sports programs as schools prepare to reopen

As schools prepare to reopen, sports teams are offering an early glimpse of the challenges of protecting students from the coronavirus.

Nine clusters have been tied to sports, with 64 cases as of last week, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Because of virus concerns, Wyandotte County announced Thursday that it is barring non-professional athletes from competing this fall in football, volleyball, and soccer. The order also bars marching band events. The Kansas City, Kansas, district called off its fall sports season earlier in the week. But the order also applies to other public schools in the county, in addition to private schools, higher education, and non-professional sports clubs and organizations.

“We recognize the impact of canceling sports and it is regrettable that the virus has not been contained enough to allow non-professional sports to proceed at this time,” said Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer with the Unified Government Public Health Department, in a news release.

Meanwhile, Colby Public Schools Superintendent Katina Brenn said in a statement that one or more people who attended mandatory meetings last week for fall sports have since tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Masks won’t be required for students in the district when classes start next week after the Thomas County Commission rejected an executive order by Gov. Laura Kelly last month. An opt-in and opt-out form from the district gives parents the choice of requiring their students to wear a mask or banning their students from wearing a mask.

Statewide, the number of infections rose by 817 from Monday to Wednesday, for a total of 32,547. COVID-19-related deaths increased by eight to 395. The number of infections is believed to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and experts believe people can have the virus without feeling sick.

While nursing home outbreaks remain deadly, including one that has infected 12 and claimed a life at the Wichita Center adult care home, cases among young people are a growing concern. State health officials said 37 is the median age of those infected.

“Young people are not invincible, and if we can communicate one thing it is that mass gatherings are still a problem, worse actually than ever,” Dr. Lee Norman, the state’s top public health official, said Wednesday.