DC coach reacts to new COVID health guidance for high school athletics

Student-athletes across D.C. have been waiting for information about how they’ll play and practice this season given the rise in the delta variant of COVID-19. A day after that guidance was released, one coach said his players are taking it in stride.

Mike Hunter, the head football coach at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Northeast, said his team wasn’t surprised by new guidance from the D.C. State Athletic Association (DCSAA) requiring all athletes wear masks while competing or practicing indoors, and that unvaccinated players get tested regularly for COVID-19.

He said the number of vaccinated players on his team is not very high.

“We do have a few kids who are vaccinated. And our school has now become one of the vaccination sites. So I believe that is going to help with, you know, a lot of student-athletes getting vaccinated here at Friendship. But we’re just trying to be as cautious as possible, whether they’re vaccinated or not, we’re going to encourage them to wear masks,” he said.

Hunter said the charter school has been testing his players since they came back for practice in the spring, so they are “used to it.”

But unlike other sports, DC Health considers football high-risk. Luckily, Friendship football spends the majority of its season outside and won’t have to be masked while playing.

“Everyone’s excited, you know, for the opportunity to be back. You know, as a football program, we haven’t been able to play a game since December of 2019,” he said.

The DCSAA is allowing each local education agency to determine whether they’ll allow fans at games and events, which Hunter said Friendship is leaning toward.

“But you know, with this whole COVID situation, everything is fluid. So, maybe telling you something today and tomorrow we decide not to have fans,” he said.

WTOP reached out to D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) for permission to speak with a public school coach. A spokesman said that while the guidance is out from DCSAA, the mandate from DCPS to school leaders is not.

“DCPS Athletics has not communicated updates and guidance to Athletic Directors and coaches related to how they will handle and mandate the new requirements,” said Enrique Gutierrez with D.C. Public Schools.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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