CINCINNATI — Four Greater Cincinnati high school football games canceled last week due to the number of COVID-19 quarantined student-athletes.
Three games are canceled this Friday and another contest is already off the schedule for Sept. 3.
These cancellations, or what are considered no contests in Ohio, may only be the beginning this fall season. The reality is a sobering thought after a significant challenge for schools during the 2020-21 school year.
"I don't unfortunately see it changing which stinks," Wyoming High School athletic director Jan Wilking said. "It's going to continue to be a mad shuffle for games and to get everybody back at school and doing the right thing. I wish we were in this for the short run but unfortunately it's looking like another school year of mad shuffling and trying to just piece things together which will be a lot."
The natural reaction during this time of the delta variant is to wonder if history is repeating itself from 2020 when a number of games around Ohio were canceled in the first few weeks.
"No, I do not believe it's a here we go again situation," said Lakota West athletic director Scott Kaufman, who is the Ohio High School Athletic Association board of directors president. "I do believe it's time to reset and go back to some protocols from last year to minimize the number of quarantines that we're going through."
On Wednesday, the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations announced it has partnered with the NCAA, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the National Athletic Trainers' Association, eight national medical organizations and the U.S. Department of Education to promote COVID-19 vaccination in school-age students ages 12-18.
The District of Columbia, Hawaii and Connecticut are among the state athletic associations with campaigns to promote vaccinations.
The Hawaii High School Athletic Association has delayed its football season to Sept. 24 and is requiring all student-athletes, staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated.
In Ohio, there are no state mandates regarding vaccinations, masks and social distancing. School districts and local health departments could set their own requirements.
Wilking said the parameters are clear in Wyoming City Schools for students to be able to fully participate in school and interscholastic athletics.
"As far as what we can do to prevent outbreaks and to keep kids in school which is what we all want whether they're being the star of the play or the star of the tennis team; you know vaccinations help," Wilking said. "You don't have to quarantine if you are vaccinated and masking helps."
Kaufman said too many people entered this fall season thinking circumstances were back to normal. Now is the time for teams to look in the mirror and take full responsibility.
"What are you willing to sacrifice in order to save your season?" Kaufman said. "We know the delta variant is more contagious than what we dealt with a year ago. And it's hard to believe that we are dealing with something worse than a year ago. It's a shame we are dealing with it because we have a solution."
If a student-athlete tests positive for COVID-19, that individual has to isolate for 10 days and receive medical clearance to return to play.
If a student-athlete is unmasked and unvaccinated and considered to be a close contact, the quarantine is a minimum of 10 days but that can be reduced to eight days if a negative test occurs after five days.
"We all need to be going back to our protocols and restrictions athletically that we started with last fall," Kaufman said. "Everything that we did last fall was designed to keep the kids healthy, to minimize the possibility of A: infection but B: being quarantined because of a close contact."
The Ohio High School Athletic Association said 16 season openers were canceled statewide last week.
The OHSAA said last week it is discussing policies related to COVID-19 cancellations and how that might impact the Harbin ratings, also known as the computer points playoff system.
Prior to 2020, there was an eight-game minimum in order to qualify for the postseason.
In Kentucky, there were 17 high school football games canceled out of 120 contests scheduled last week, according to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
Six games have been canceled this week out of 117 scheduled on the KHSAA website.
"Schools just send us a report," KHSAA spokesperson Dan White said. "They go through the website and they report that game as a COVID cancellation and they are able to say if the COVID situation is with the home team or if it's with the visitor team."
The result is initially entered as the team with the quarantined student-athletes takes a loss while the opposing team receives the win. There are also procedures if both teams are in quarantine.
White said teams may choose to reschedule that canceled game or find other opponents which would change the initial result.
Cancellations involving soccer games and girls volleyball matches are also tracked weekly, White said.
"The (KHSAA) commissioner (Julian Tackett) is always in communication with the schools," White said. "Our COVID-19 guidance is up on the website so schools have been sent that. Obviously, keeping track of the virus as it changes."
Athletic administrators know circumstances change from hour to hour. They are starting to wonder about the winter season, too.
"It concerns me because we're still in summer months and if we don't get this more under control with the help of vaccinations by the time it gets colder and we're indoors, I worry about how many more steps backwards we're going to take," Kaufman said.