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Conditioning workouts canceled after East Bay athletes test positive for COVID-19

Liberty Union High School District has canceled all conditioning activities after two students participating in campus workouts tested positive for COVID-19. Another has also shown symptoms and is believed to have contracted the virus, according to administrators.

Superintendent Eric Volta made the announcement through a letter posted on the district’s website late Wednesday and mailed to families. Volta said it appeared the students contracted the virus off-campus and parents of all those who had contact with them during the conditioning activities have been notified.

Volta did not specify in his letter which teams were involved or where the students were conditioning, but later said two of the students were at Liberty High and the other at Heritage High.

Though practices were shut down Wednesday, Volta said they had been conducted safely in the last several weeks and were good for the teens’ emotional and physical health.

“Obviously, someone brought this virus to campus, but the most important part is that to our knowledge, these students did not give it to each other and did not transmit the disease on campus,” he said.

Heritage High Principal Carrie Wells confirmed one of her school’s students who had participated in a workout camp and had tested positive was doing OK.

“Currently the student is healthy and is asymptomatic,” she said. “No other athletes or coaches have tested positive or are experiencing symptoms.”

Volta said he did not know the condition of the other athlete who had tested positive or the one who likely had the virus.

The superintendent said he was convinced that while on campus and under the coaches’ supervision, the athletes had maintained social distancing and wore face masks to and from their workouts.

Even so, Volta said the district has suspended all conditioning for fall sports and cheer activities until it is clear when interscholastic sports will occur.

Faced with a surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the California Interscholastic Federation said its decision about the fall schedule would be made by July 20.

Schools throughout the Bay Area have been doing modified conditioning since June under county health department guidelines.

Heritage High School Athletic Director Nate Smith said the school had followed district and county health guidelines in developing socially distanced workouts where students individually entered small pods at staggered times and points of entry. No balls were ever used, he added.

“Right now everyone is looking for guidance,” he said.  “We are doing everything we can out of an abundance of caution to do what’s best for our campuses.”

Smith said the impact of the coronavirus is “bigger than anything we’ve ever dealt with before.”

“Everyone realizes we are in a unique situation,” he said. “It’s bigger than one school site, bigger than one district … we all recognize this is something of massive proportions.”

Students conditioning in the summer included those from campus football, water polo, cross country and cheer teams.

In a tweet late Wednesday, Antioch football coaches announced practices had been canceled for the rest of the week. “We will update you all some time next week when we have more detail about what the season will look like and when practice will resume,” the tweet read.

In Pittsburg, a district spokeswoman confirmed that though Pittsburg High School had been doing athletic conditioning following county health guidelines, the district suspended workouts on Monday due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Earlier this month, Liberty Union High School District’s school board voted to take a hybrid approach of in-class and distance learning. It also delayed the start of the new school year by two weeks, to Aug. 10.

The superintendent said coaches were allowed to do workouts because many felt the social interactions among the teens following county health guidelines would be good for them.

“The reason why we did this is because our students were sheltered at the drop of a hat on March 16,” he said. “One of the coaches mentioned that he watched his athletes come  in at the initial workouts and they were not the lively group that he knew from the school season, but as workouts progressed …. at the end, it was like it was normal.”

Volta added that the district continues to monitor the situation and reevaluate its decision regarding what school will look like in the coming semester.

“We, including the school board, are keeping a close watch on the impact the virus is having on our community. We will continue to make decisions accordingly with the best interest of our community in mind,” he said.

Liberty Union High School District includes Heritage, Liberty and Freedom high schools and several alternative schools in Brentwood and Oakley.



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