COVID cases in sports decline

OPRF sent out an email informing the Oak Park community that all extracurriculars, including sports, would be postponed until after winter break Dec. 3. Just two days later, OPRF reversed course, sending out another email saying sports would be reinstated the following Tuesday.

Since, sports have chugged along, and OPRF has seen a drop in positive tests throughout the school. According to the OPRF COVID dashboard, from the week of Dec. 31 to Jan. 6, there were 138 new student cases and 34 new faculty cases. The following week, there were 121 new student cases and 13 new faculty cases. The week of Jan. 13 to Jan. 21, new cases dropped significantly with only 37 new student cases and only six new faculty cases, and sports have also seen similar drops.

The OPRF athletic and COVID team have done all they can to keep sports active amidst fluctuating cases and changing protocols.

“We have mandatory testing each Thursday for all athletes and have all of them, if possible, in masks. There’s a certain threshold of positive tests for a team, which requires them to take a quarantine. At one time it was 14 days, then 10 days, and now it is five days,” said Athletic Director Nicole Ebsen. “Current guidance is if you are a close contact or you test positive, you are in quarantine for five days. In all the sports where you can remain masked while playing, you can come back on day six.”

Ebsen said that consistent mask-wearing is the best way for sports to continue.

“I’m enforcing masks by proximity, I do my best to enforce mask wearing whenever I see people not wearing them. But there’s only so much I can do,” says Ebsen. “We have signage reminding people to pull up their masks throughout the athletic facilities. We make periodic announcements during games reminding fans and players to keep their masks up.”

Despite the progress, OPRF has had to shut a few teams down, including the varsity wrestling team at the end of December. The boys varsity wrestling team had more than 10% of their players test positive, crossing the threshold for positive tests.

“For the first day it was tough when we got shut down, but our coaches reassured us to stick to what we control. Our coaches did a great job of keeping us together during quarantine,” said senior wrestler Reid Butterly. “They remind us to stay true to our goals and control what we can control.”

The boys wrestling team has since resumed play and have not had any more shutdowns. In fact, the boys wrestling team had senior night Jan. 21 when they took on York. They pulled off a big win on the back of senior Allyn Johnson, who earned a fall and dual victory at the end.

The biggest issue for teams has been trying to stay connected while players continue to drop in and out of quarantine.

“We’ve only had a full roster for seven of our 18 games so far. It’s hard on team chemistry when guys are dropping in and out but we’ve persevered,” says boys basketball head coach Phil Gary. “It’s something that, not just us in Oak Park, but teams all across the country have had to play through and play with. It’s the hand we’re dealt as a society, it’s nothing that we can control, other than doing our in staying safe, keeping our mask up things like that.”