CENTER, Mo. | Football practice was halted Friday afternoon at Mark Twain High School after a player tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Cody McCann, the school's athletic director, said that the Ralls County Health Department informed Mark Twain leaders of the positive finding on Friday afternoon.
“The Health Department said that we need to quarantine our players and coaches for 14 days from the original exposure to COVID-19,” McCann said.
Because the exposure is estimated to have taken place on Monday (Aug. 10), the first day of practice, the players and coaches cannot gather as a team again until Aug. 25, according to Health Department guidelines.
McCann said the quarantine affects 24 players and three coaches.
“Basically, we have no way around this so we will follow the guidelines,” McCann said.
Mark Twain head football coach Karl Asbury, who is now in quarantine, said coaches are working to put into place plans for virtual practices.
In such an arrangement, coaches could teach plays and even supervise physical conditioning.
“We told the players and called all their families this afternoon,” Asbury said. “We are trying to figure out what we can do now until we get back on the field.”
The Tigers are scheduled to travel to play South Callaway for the 2020 season-opener on Aug. 28.
However, the fate of that game is up in the air and depends on action by the Missouri State High School Activities Association board of directors, which McCann said is scheduled to meet on Monday.
MHSAA rules now require that players have 10 days of conditioning before playing a team sport, a rule that the organization has not waived in the past.
Paris High School head coach Gary Crusha said that two years ago, the Coyotes, who play in the Lewis & Clark Conference, were forced to hold a player from the first two games of the season after he arrived at preseason practice during opening week because he attended U.S. Army basic training as a member of the Missouri Army National Guard.
MHSAA, he said, calls it game conditioning.
“There was no doubt he was in great shape because of basic training, but MHSAA would not waive the rule,” Crusha said.
McCann said MSHSAA is considering a change to that policy as a result the COVID-19 pandemic that would count virtual practices as game conditioning.
“They are discussing the option of virtual practices where coaches would go over information on a white board to draw up plays and supervise player conditioning,” he said. “It would have to be a live feed.”
Asbury said that his players were obviously disappointed to be grounded at the end of week one of practice.
“They are upset. They want to practice and play,” he said.
High school sports teams around Northeast Missouri have been taking extraordinary precautions to protect from COVID-19 exposure this summer, starting in July with weight lifting sessions.
Crusha said at Paris players and coaches are screened every day. David Kirby, head coach of Monroe City, and other coaches say they take the same precautions.
“Oh, wow,” Kirby said of the Mark Twain news. “That is pretty wild. We are working out in small groups, wearing masks and we follow all the CDC rules and those from our administration.”