HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – Horry County Schools is addressing concerns after St. James High School JV football players tested positive for the coronavirus before playing against the Sumter High School JV football team.
The game between the two teams was played on Thursday, Oct. 15.
HCS stated that on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13, the SJHS JV football players participated in practice.
Then on the morning of Oct. 14, a JV football player reported to the school nurse that he was not feeling well. The district said the student described having flu-like symptoms, and the nurse stated he would have to be excluded from school and any school-related events for 10 days.
Later that afternoon, a second JV player reported he wasn’t feeling well to the school nurse and also complained of flu-like symptoms, according to HCS. The second student was also told he would have to be excluded from school and any school events for 10 days.
On the morning of Oct. 15, the day of the game, the two JV players received positive COVID-19 test results.
The school district stated that the last time the two players had been in contact with their team was on Oct. 13.
HCS said that the Department of Health and Environmental Control was consulted every step of the way, and determined that the JV football game could move forward between SJHS and Sumter High school because the two players had begun their quarantine and they were not participating in the game.
DHEC, on the other hand, said it provided guidance but it was the school’s decision to play.
The day after the game, an athletic team staff member who works with the JV football team tested positive for the coronavirus. Because this was the third member of the team to test positive within 14 days, it triggered an automatic exclusion of the entire JV football team from the school and any school events for the next two weeks.
Sumter School District Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox said they were not made aware of the positive test results before the SJHS JV football team arrived at Sumter High School.
“We were not privy to the circumstances of the students of the opposing team nor the severity of the situation prior to the team’s arrival. Based on the conversation with the staff of the opposing team, clearance was given for the game to proceed,” according to a state that Martin-Knox sent to WMBF News. “We later learned that an adult, in addition to the two students, tested positive prompting our students to be quarantined. To our knowledge, the game was played without any COVID-19 positive individuals on the field.”
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In an email to WMBF News, HCS said that before the game, the SJHS coaching staff notified Sumter coaches, Sumter athletic officials and game referees/officiants about the positive COVID-19 test results and DHEC’s recommendation that the game could go on as scheduled.
The Sumter School District sent a letter to parents at Sumter High School saying that they’re “deeply concerned” with the way things unfolded on Thursday.
WMBF News reached out to the South Carolina High School League and asked if they were aware of the positive coronavirus cases and if the school needed special approval to play.
The SCHSL said they were not aware of the case but said that this is a local issue and is managed at the local level.
“We have confidence in our member school administrations and the steps being taken to prevent further issues,” said Tammie Newman with the SCHSL.
Newman added that schools have the ability to choose whether or not to play and there is no penalty if a school chooses not to play.
HCS officials said that as of Monday morning, no other SJHS JV players have exhibited flu-like symptoms or have tested positive.
They added that the JV team has had no reported close contacts with the varsity football team or their coaches.