MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Alabama’s largest school system has not even decided if it will participate in fall sports, but student-athletes have been hit with the novel coronavirus, nonetheless.
Rena Philips, a spokeswoman for the Mobile County Public School System, told FOX10 News that eight of the system’s 12 high schools have had athletes or coaches who have tested positive dating to earlier in the summer.
Citing privacy concerns, Philips declined to name the schools, but she added that the procedure in the event of a positive test result is to shut down practices for 14 days.
“If someone is positive, we’re sitting the whole team out,” she said.
Administrators have held to that 14-day period out of an abundance of caution, even though current recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for 10 days of quarantining.
“A couple of them have had to do it twice,” Philips said.
Two schools currently are sidelined, Philips added.
Baldwin County schools officials told FOX10 News that 14 students participating in summer athletic or extracurricular programs have tested positive for the coronavirus: four each from Daphne and Foley high schools; two each form Spanish Fort and Robertsdale high schools; and one each from Elberta and Orange Beach high schools.
Officials said the system notifies parents of team members any time there is a positive case.
“We are committed to keeping with our promise to provide clean and safe facilities,” Prevention and Services Director Anthony Sampson said in a statement. “We are equally committed to remaining transparent about the safety and well-being of students and employees.
FOX10 News has asked other local school systems about athletics and COVID-19, but they did not immediately respond.
Mobile County’s experience shows the obstacles Alabama high schools face as they aim for a normal sports season in abnormal times.
The good news, Philips said, is that none of the sports-related cases have resulted in a mass outbreak. She said that leads school officials to believe that the infected athletes are not passing the illness among teammates.
“We’re finding they’re not getting it from each other,” she said. “We think they’re getting it out in the community.”
Meanwhile, although a decision has not been made about competition, Philips said teams continue to prepare as if they are going forward with games.
Dr. Don Williamson, the president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told FOX10 News that fall sports likely will be dicey – and not just for the athletes.
“What I worry about is getting all the fans in the stadium, without 6 feet of social distancing, and if they’re not wearing masks,” he said. “That’s what I worry about. … I think it’s gonna be a very, very hard thing to have anything approaching a normal football season.”
(Updated at 8:13 p.m. with information from Baldwin County).