When highschool athletes throughout Michigan had been required to participate in a COVID-19 testing program in late December of 2020, there was widespread skepticism about how the method would function effectively and what the good thing about such an endeavor could be.
Six months later, the 2020-21 highschool sports activities season concluded with state champions being topped in each varsity sport and the outlook on the 2021-22 season is extra optimistic than it’s ever been.
One of many driving forces behind the return to motion for highschool athletes and the continued success of its seasons with out prolonged pauses or suspended play has been the antigen testing program instituted by the Michigan Division of Well being and Human Providers and assisted by the Michigan Excessive Faculty Athletic Affiliation.
The preliminary outcomes of the COVID-19 testing program from Dec. 30, 2020, by mid-January of 2021, got here again with a 99.6 % unfavourable end result price for all highschool athletes. The MDHHS reported that 4,000 student-athletes and workers participated in this system.
The preliminary testing protocols helped form what would turn out to be a weekly testing routine for all highschool sports activities athletes in the course of the winter sports activities season, because the MDHHS and its partnering organizations fine-tuned their efforts to restrict any potential errors and maximize security protocols.
“The total testing pilot confirmed us that testing in colleges was not solely doable, nevertheless it was essentially the most environment friendly choice at our disposal,” mentioned Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian of the MDHHS. “We may present the assessments and supply the coaching and assist wanted for varsity workers and for athletic workers to have the ability to carry out the take a look at very simply.
“Then, within the winter, we had been testing our student-athletes 3 times every week and we discovered that by most of our optimistic assessments, we had been discovering potential exposes early on, so we had been in a position to change that testing cadence for many athletes to as soon as every week. I feel that implementation data that we bought with our falls sports activities testing pilot was very useful in planning our winter and spring testing.”
Based on MDHHS information, an estimated 564,566 COVID-19 assessments had been carried out on highschool student-athletes ages 19 and youthful in Michigan from Feb. 6 to June 12 of 2021 with 3,896 optimistic outcomes for a unfavourable price of 99.33 % throughout that point.
There have been additionally an estimated 25,001 assessments carried out on youth sports activities athletes ages 19 and youthful who had been affiliated with membership or journey groups throughout the identical interval with 130 optimistic outcomes for a negativity price of 99.48 %.
Some could scoff at such a low positivity price however the finish objective of the MDHHS has at all times been to stop future outbreaks and create a protected setting for all student-athletes.
“Since February, we’ve performed an exceptional quantity of testing,” mentioned Dr. Bagdasarian. “Michigan has actually been a frontrunner within the nation by way of (grades) Ok by 12 testing. Largely, that’s been resulting from our athletics testing, so I feel we are able to look again at this previous tutorial faculty yr and examine the statewide testing program as a hit.
“It’s tough to match the % positivity on this testing program as a result of we’re testing the identical people each week, in comparison with PCR (polymerase chain response), the place persons are really looking for out testing as a result of they’re symptomatic. Numerous the highschool sports activities testing was performed as an asymptomatic screening program.
“I’d say that our objective was to determine athletes early earlier than they might expose others or earlier than an outbreak may happen, and I really feel like we had been profitable in doing that with this testing program.”
The testing program did see a spike in early April of an estimated two % positivity price when most colleges had scheduled spring breaks, however that plummeted to 0.6 % by finish of the month.
“In early April, our % positivity price peaked at about two % for our Ok by 12 testing and since then, it has declined considerably,” Dr. Bagdasarian mentioned. “The decline was probably brought on by vaccines turning into available to increasingly more age teams and the return of extra outside actions and hotter temperatures. Since that point, all the outcomes have continued to pattern to decrease and decrease positivity for all testing members.”
Though the nation is shifting quickly towards a return to normalcy, Dr. Bagdasarian, like many inside the MDHHS, believes a continuation of the testing program within the fall is crucial to the long-term success of stopping outbreaks.
“At this level, I’d encourage colleges to proceed testing till we are able to get a vaccine authorised for youths beneath the age of 12,” she mentioned. “I feel testing will stay a key technique to stopping future outbreaks in colleges and youth athletics.
“College students, particularly college students beneath the age of 12, are at the moment our largest unvaccinated inhabitants, so ensuring that that age group is protected and guarded as they return to high school within the fall goes to be of utmost significance.
“Testing is a type of methods, however there are various layers that wanted to be added on prime of one another as a way to make the entire operation work. That signifies that social distancing, masking, and testing after which responding to the outcomes of these assessments and ensuring that we’re doing case investigations and speak to tracing, ensuring that air flow is nice in colleges, all of these issues go collectively. I feel our objective with testing is to guard our youngsters, particularly those that are unvaccinated, due to their age group, and ensuring that colleges stay protected locations within the fall.”
A unified entrance within the prevention of future COVID-19 outbreaks will even play a key issue within the fall and Dr. Bagdasarian is optimistic the previous tutorial yr will solely strengthen these bonds.
“This has actually been a complete village of communities coming collectively to make it possible for this testing was taking place and working in an environment friendly approach,” she mentioned. “The general satisfaction in these testing applications has been fairly good. We’ve performed some surveys and our satisfaction responses have been over 80 %, so most individuals who’ve been concerned within the testing applications have appeared to love it and appear to really feel that it was useful, however the state couldn’t have performed this with out the partnership of this enormous neighborhood.
“I feel the taking part colleges have been superb. We couldn’t have performed any of this testing with out the sturdy partnership and assist of our (Impartial Faculty Districts), faculty directors, lecturers, principals, and pupil athletic organizations. Our native well being departments have additionally been very beneficiant with their time to make it possible for Michigan children are protected and guarded and getting examined for COVID.
“I hope that the relationships between all events concerned are cemented and we are able to all transfer ahead in the identical path. No matter is across the nook or no matter occurs sooner or later, I consider the relationships we’ve established will assist us deal with it as successfully as doable if we ever face one other public well being emergency once more.”
MORE MLIVE HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS COVERAGE