AUSTIN (KXAN) — A word of caution came to parents about the spread of COVID-19 from Austin Public Health (APH) on Friday. While many are worried about potential spread in the classroom, the local health authority says it is seeing most of the transmission from extracurricular activities like sports and band.
“We know that these activities are likely to present situations where masking and social distancing is not possible or practical,” said Dr. Mark Escott, APH Interim Health Authority. “It’s important that parents understand that those activities bring an increased risk of transmission for those children and for the household. We also recommend that those children, if they’re going to be active in those programs, mask and social distance at home to protect the rest of the household.”
This week Darrell Pierce attended his daughter’s volleyball game. Her team from Austin Independent School District wore masks during the game, but the other team did not.
“There was no temperature check, there was no COVID-19 health check that was required on your device, and the opponents were not required to wear masks,” Pierce said.
University Interscholastic League COVID-19 guidelines require everyone at a game to wear face coverings except if you are practicing or playing.
“When you’re in a heated competition at that point there’s no social distancing, when these kids are competing near a net, and one side is wearing a mask and the other is not, now you’ve created an uneven health balance,” Pierce explained.
Some districts have added stricter rules Pierce feels should be standard when playing schools from other districts and for all school sports.
“The lack of consistency and protocol from top to bottom sets us up potentially to have greater risk exposure that could better be managed by ensuring we are all on the same page,” Pierce said.
Fortunately, football moms like Elaina Foradory, president of the Bowie Football Booster Club, haven’t had any issues ahead of the football season, as they are taking extra precautions before district play.
“The boys are all wearing face masks when they are not actively exercising; we bought face shields for all the football players and we have a lot of sanitizer. We are doing everything we can. We aren’t sharing water, we are being our own water to the practices,” Foradory explained.
APH says high school students have a COVID-19 positivity rate of 14%, which is triple the community rate.
There has been an increase in new cases over the past two weeks, and the highest positivity rate is among ages 10-19 and 20-29, according to APH. The current data shows four dozen cases in Travis County Schools. As of last Friday, there was one active cluster at a school in the county, consisting of three cases.