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Two Delaware high school teams were exposed, why must only one quarantine?

Kevin Tresolini
Delaware News Journal

The risks of playing high school sports during a pandemic became evident last week when a field hockey player tested positive for COVID-19 after a game.

Subsequent health and safety protocols left those associated with Concord High concerned that Delaware Division of Public Health measures were not being implemented uniformly.

In a letter to state officials, Concord field hockey coach Sandy Wermus described how the school’s junior varsity team had learned last Monday that a Delaware Military Academy JV player had tested positive for COVID-19. The teams had played Oct. 23, the previous Friday.

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“[The Division of Public Health] mandated that all of our JV, and the coach who officiated, quarantine for 2 weeks,” Wermus wrote. “We have followed this recommendation strictly.”

The DMA and Archmere Academy junior varsity teams had also played on Saturday, Oct. 24.

However, Archmere’s junior varsity players were not ordered to quarantine by DPH and played home games last week against Appoquinimink on Tuesday and Padua on Saturday.

Concord has not played a jayvee field hockey game since Oct. 23 and DMA since Oct. 24.

 “Our issue is with the DPH, not other schools,” Concord athletic director Larry Jacobs emphasized. “The other schools, DMA and Archmere, handled everything 100 percent properly and followed all the protocols.”

Archmere athletic director Dave Oswinkle wouldn’t comment on the situation beyond saying his school followed proper procedure in answering DPH’s questions and following its orders, which did not include quarantining players and calling off games.

“What we’re bothered by is the inconsistency,” said Mark Mayer, the Concord principal.

“Our field hockey parents are wondering why our JV team was quarantined and we got a certain message from DPH and why another member school within [the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association] got another message totally different.”

All Concord students are taking classes virtually while Archmere has had in-person classes since the start of the school year.

“Archmere and Concord are less than three miles from each other. The families, they intermingle and they talk,” Mayer added. “They say ‘OK, we gotta quarantine. How come you guys didn’t get quarantined? You played the same team just a day later! We don’t understand.’ ”

Curiosity about the situation was also expressed during Monday night’s DIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee meeting, during which members agreed it was a DPH matter.

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It’s possible the DPH survey of the schools involved may have indicated Concord and Archmere players had different levels of exposure to the infected DMA player.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on exposure does leave gray areas. It defines “close contact” as being within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

DPH spokesperson Jen Brestel explained in an email to Delaware Online/The News Journal that privacy rules prevented her from speaking about a specific case. But she did acknowledge that each situation must be examined separately.

“DPH epidemiologists obtain information during case investigation to make determinations regarding quarantine recommendations for individuals identified as close contacts,” she explained. “There is not a one-size fits all for every situation because the factors may differ in each scenario or interaction.”

Likewise, an incident involving sports teams coming together would include gathering evidence “not only from the positive individual, but also from the schools/team officials for the teams that came in contact with the positive case during game play,” Brestel said. 

Have an idea for a compelling local sports story or is there an issue that needs public scrutiny? Contact Kevin Tresolini at ktresolini@delawareonline.com and follow on Twitter @kevintresolini. Support local journalism by subscribing to delawareonline.com.