A week after starting practice, the coronavirus sidelined the Payette High football team again.
All 33 players are under a two-week quarantine after exposure to the virus in their season-opening practices. The quarantine and canceled practices will cost the Pirates their season opener Aug. 28 against Cole Valley Christian.
Payette learned of the first of multiple positive tests Friday. Parents then took their children for more tests over the weekend, and Southwest District Health recommended the quarantine, Payette Superintendent Robin Gilbert said.
She said she didn’t know the number of positive results as of Tuesday morning.
“Looking at some of the different spread, we can’t tell whether it was taking place in camp — even though we had mitigation strategies — or if it was taking place because kids were running around together, as high schools kids do,” Gilbert said.
Payette is the second known Idaho team to enter a quarantine this fall. Mackay also entered isolation Friday after a potential exposure and is awaiting test results.
The quarantine does not affect Payette’s soccer, volleyball or cross country teams.
The outbreak serves as a stark reminder of the virus’ hold over schools. The initial coronavirus outbreak closed the majority of Idaho schools in March for the rest of the academic year, canceling the spring sports season.
Case numbers continued to climb this summer, putting the school year and fall season in jeopardy.
Southwest District Health placed all of Payette County under the red category of community spread, its highest, Aug. 5. The Pirates started practice Aug. 10.
Payette football coach Kip Crofts said he opted not to take his team to Horsethief Reservoir for its traditional overnight camp because of concerns of an outbreak. Hours away from home, he would have struggled to isolate any sick players.
Instead, the team practiced in Payette, and an outbreak happened anyway.
Crofts vowed this would not be the end of the Pirates’ season. He will send his players individual workouts and teach athletes virtually their positions and duties on the field.
“This is not going to stop us,” Crofts said. “We are going to come back. We have a good group of kids that deserve to play football. We had a great summer, and a lot of kids were there every day and worked hard.”
The Payette School District approved a plan to fully reopen its schools Friday despite Southwest District Health’s recommendation to move completely online due to substantial community spread of the coronavirus.
Students will return to school four days a week and masks will be encouraged, but not required.
Classes start Thursday for sixth and ninth graders, and Monday for all students. The students in quarantine will transition into the district’s online learning option.
Gilbert said the school board will review Payette’s situation weekly and make any needed adjustments.
“We’re watching it,” Gilbert said. “We would like to have gotten started and gone a little farther into it. It’s disappointing to the team … but we’re going to keep moving forward to the best of our ability. It gives us an opportunity to put our plan in place and stay nimble and flexible.”