ST. GEORGE — The Dixie High girls basketball team resumed practice and activities Wednesday, despite eight additional positive COVID-19 cases within the program, including seven players. The team now has now had a total of 13 positive cases — 10 players and three coaches — over the past two weeks.
The new positives come via regularly scheduled student-athlete testing as mandated by a public health order via Gov. Gary Herbert’s office. The Flyers were already isolating following positive tests — three players and two coaches — following the team’s return from the Thunder Classic hosted by Westlake High School on Dec. 6.
Because they were already in isolation, the remaining players and coaches that tested negative were not exposed within the last week and are eligible to participate in activities. Head coach Ryan Forsey, who was one of the original positive tests, said they’ll be combining freshman, varsity and junior varsity squads going forward.
Forsey said the team has thus far avoided the virus’ more serious implications.
“For the most part, everybody’s healthy,” he said. “Nobody’s had to go to the hospital. Everybody’s been able to handle it at home. It knocks you off your feet though, that’s for sure. For three days, I was down and pretty much, not struggling to breathe, but it was hard to do anything without getting out of breath.”
Following the team’s return from their opening tournament at Westlake on Dec. 5, one player showed symptoms on Dec. 6. Two more showed symptoms on Dec. 7. After an assistant coach lost their sense of smell on Dec. 8, they were tested along with Forsey. Both came up positive, and the school’s nursing staff and administration shut the program down and isolated its players.
Not all players that showed no symptoms were tested and were asked to isolate. When the 10-day isolation period since first symptoms were shown — mandated by Utah’s COVID-19 School Manual — the team went through regularly scheduled testing to green light activities again. The tests revealed the seven new positives.
Orem, the team Dixie played on Dec. 5, has since played three games: Dec. 8, 10 and 15. The two other teams it played — Fremont and Summit Academy — have not, though it is not yet known if that was scheduled. Forsey said the administration was responsible for notifying previous opponents, and Forsey was unable to provide updates on those schools. None of the three opponents immediately responded to comment for this story.
Dixie had to cancel its scheduled game vs. Enterprise on Tuesday. With its next scheduled game on Dec. 28, it’s hoping to not have to cancel any more.
Forsey was adamant that the team followed all relevant protocols. However, the team was still boarding four players to a room in the hotel and was on a bus together for the more than five-hour drive to Saratoga Springs.
“Everybody was doing everything they were supposed to,” Forsey said. “I don’t think the high school athletic association or even health officials, I don’t think they’re ignorant or naive to think that it’s not going to happen. They just want to do their best to allow kids to play and at the same time protect them the best we can. It’s the line everyone is trying to walk. … It’s kind of tricky. All we can do is what they tell us, they recommend or require. When it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. In this case, we did the best we could, and it didn’t.”
Dixie is the only program to have a game canceled due to internal COVID-19 protocols in Region 9. As basketball continues through preseason play, protocols have limited fan attendance to only parents of players to this point.
On Wednesday, there were 283 new coronavirus infections in Southern Utah and 2,928 in the state.
Assuming the health of the players and staff maintains, Dixie will have time to fulfill their isolation periods before conference play begins in early January.
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