South Lakes High School’s varsity and junior varsity football teams have paused all activities through April 4 — one day before spring break ends — after 11 players tested positive for COVID-19, Fairfax County Public Schools confirmed to Reston Now.
ABC7’s Scott Abraham first reported the teams’ activities had been put on hold due to positive COVID-19 cases. The Seahawks’ March 26 home game against Washington-Liberty and April 1 game at Langley were both canceled.
South Lakes Principal Kim Retzer alerted families to the multiple positive cases of COVID-19 at the school in an emailed letter on March 25, stating that the cases appeared to be “confined to a contained group of students (such as a sports team or a club).”
“In an abundance of caution, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will be temporarily transitioning all affected classroom cohorts to distance learning and all on-site activities involving this group have been paused as the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) completes contact tracing and investigation,” Retzer wrote in her letter.
She added that FCPS “will be implementing all cleaning and disinfecting protocols as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FCHD.”
“Our school remains open to staff and all other in-person cohorts at this time,” Retzer said.
FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell confirmed that 11 of the 99 student athletes in the high school’s football program reported testing positive as of March 31.
“The FCHD determined transmission of COVID-19 occurred during team activities,” she said.
Caldwell noted that the student athletes who tested positive have the ability to participate in virtual learning while in isolation.
Almost 40 additional student athletes have been moved to virtual learning to quarantine because the county health department identified those students as “close contacts to the reported COVID-19 positive cases,” according to Caldwell.
In accordance with CDC guidance, the health department defines a close contact as “persons with [more than] 15 cumulative minutes of exposure in a 24-hour period within 6 feet of an infectious COVID-19 case.”
FCHD Senior Communications Specialist Tina Dale told Reston Now that the department does not comment on outbreaks unless it needs assistance finding people to complete contact investigations.
“As is the case with facilities, such as schools, we are able to conduct a thorough investigation since everyone involved can easily be identified and contacted, which is the goal for our investigations,” Dale said.
According to Caldwell, almost 13,000 FCPS students and staff have participated in athletics activities since winter sports began on Dec. 7, and just under 2% of participants reported testing positive for COVID-19.
“FCPS paused activities as advised by the FCHD,” Caldwell said. “All teams are paused following the initial report of a positive case. Any close contacts identified by the FCHD are instructed to quarantine and the rest may resume normal activities.”
As more students have returned to school buildings for classes and other activities, FCPS has launched a Stop the Spread campaign to combat COVID-19 by promoting “layered prevention strategies,” Caldwell says.
The campaign emphasizes registering for a vaccine, wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing, washing hands while covering sneezes and coughs, cleaning and disinfecting, and answering any potential calls from the county health department.
Caldwell says FCPS will not enforce any additional protocols related to travel during spring break, but all students, staff, and visitors will continue to complete a daily questionnaire about possible symptoms before arriving to school or work. Individuals who answer “yes” to any questions on the screening are directed to stay home.