Not that the Livingston Parish School System wasn’t working hard to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, but Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to keep the state in Phase II of the reopening process may have given LPPS athletic director Steve Parrill a different perspective on things.
“We have no choice but to stay in Phase II based on the governor’s orders, but people need to conduct themselves responsibly in their actions, which would help everything get back to normal sooner,” Parrill said, noting the school system’s responsibility to keep all of its employees healthy and safe. “It’s disappointing for our students that we have to remain in Phase II, and it’s also concerning about going into Phase III and the start of school that we can’t seem to get a handle on this. It’s particularly disturbing because the statistics show the biggest increase in young people.”
During Monday’s news conference, Edwards, noting a recent rise in hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases, particularly among young people, said the state will remain in Phase II for 28 days.
According to guidelines presented by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association earlier this month, Phase II allows for groups of 25 or less in an enclosed location or outdoors with adequate distancing between other groups. Those in each group must also practice social distancing.
Under the guidelines, baseball, softball, volleyball, gymnastics and cheerleading are allowed as ‘limited contact sports’ in Phase II, while conditioning is allowed for basketball, football, soccer and wrestling. Bowling, cross country, golf, powerlifting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting and non-contact outdoor camps are also allowed.
Livingston Parish schools began summer workouts June 9 after the state moved into Phase II which requires athletes who are participating to sign in and sign out before and after workouts and get their temperatures taken before working out.
“The schools are doing fine,” Parrill said, noting some schools have had positive tests among athletes without naming those schools. “One of the big things is to work out in pods or contained groups. The best-case scenario is you’re working out groups of say four or five. That way, if one of the students happens to be in contact or potentially is going to spread it, you can isolate that group and it’s a small group that has to be quarantined. The bigger you expand that group that has close contact, the more people would potentially have to be quarantined, so the way to proceed on this safely is to keep your groups as small as possible and limit interaction between groups and follow your cleaning protocols.”
Parrill said the school system is using a multi-leveled flow chart from the CDC which it is adapting to help craft guidelines for the school system to follow, not just for athletics, when it comes to dealing with students who test positive.
“We’ve had cases across the district, and we followed the proper protocols,” Parrill said.
“It’s not as simple as ‘oh, you go home for 14 days’, because in some cases, it depends on what level, if at all, you were exposed,” Parrill continued. “The problem we have too, is we’ll have people that (say) ‘I don’t feel well today’, and then they tell their friend they have COVID, and then we go into this full-court press and it turns out to be nothing. And then on the other extreme, we’ll have people that aren’t feeling well that don’t want to miss work or don’t want to miss their workout, and they’re not honest with us, and then it turns out they infect other people. It’s such a moving target, and every situation is different.”
Parrill also praised parish schools for their efforts in returning to campus in what he said are different circumstances for all involved.
“The schools are working incredibly hard to try to follow the correct procedures and keep the kids safe,” Parrill said. “The other thing to bear in mind is kids have been cooped up for a long time. Now they’re getting some freedom, they’re not social distancing. They’re going to hang out.”
Parrill also has his eye on the bigger picture when it comes to getting the coronavirus under control.
“It’s very concerning to me, as important as preseason summer workouts and things are, that if we don’t get this in check, we’re going to have games and we’re going to have players that potentially could infect other players, and what’s going to happen to the season?,” Parrill asked. “That’s a nightmare to begin your senior season like the baseball players were this year and to lose your season, or maybe not lose a season, but what happens if your team is quarantined and you have to forfeit three district games or four district games because your team is quarantined? There’s bigger issues out there right now than summer workouts.”