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Manhattan Beach Schools Report COVID-19 Case in Athletics

Oct 26, 2020 02:11PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A COVID-19 case has arisen in a Mira Costa High School athletics cohort - and administrators say that it illustrates the importance and benefit of keeping cohorts separate and distanced.

On Friday, October 23, Mira Costa Principal Ben Dale alerted parents and students of a freshman football cohort that one of the members had tested positive for COVID-19. The players in that cohort were directed to follow quarantine procedures for two weeks from the date of exposure (October 19 and 20).

In an email to all parents on Monday, Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent Mike Matthews said that the school had taken the following steps regarding this case:

  • Directed all members of the affected cohort to quarantine for two weeks. Even though they have been outdoors, worn masks, and kept six feet of distance, said Matthews, this is the right move (and the move required by DPH).
  • Directed the cohort not to reassemble until 14 days have passed from the cohort members’ last exposure to the infected person. 
  • Directed any additional cohort members who test positive to remain in quarantine until they have been fever free for 24 hours, show improved symptoms, and are 10 days from the onset of symptoms (or 10 days from the test date, if no symptoms develop). In the latter case, the rest of the cohort will remain in quarantine for 14 days from the last exposure to any and all cohort members who test positive.

"I am always grateful to employees and families for letting us know about any COVID-related situations and for following the advice given by DPH [the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health] to seek out a PCR/molecular (not a rapid/antigen) test, as these tests provide fewer false negative results," wrote Matthews. "There should be no stigma associated with this process. In fact, it’s just the opposite. By letting us know quickly, and providing the most reliable data available, we are better able to take the necessary steps that protect all of us."

Keeping it Safe, Keeping it Moving

Dale told DigMB that the priorities for Mira Costa athletic teams are, in order, to keep students and staff safe, to follow all protocols if there is a COVID-19 case, and to "keep things moving." (By having separate cohorts, if a COVID-19 case does arise, it allows all other athletes and teams except for that one cohort to continue practicing.)

He noted that the athletic cohorts are a large and complex operation with 33 teams currently practicing, with 2 to 4 cohorts per team.

"We did 8 weeks of preparation for this, but we have a lot of athletes and a lot of programs, so we felt good about our preparation going in. So far it’s played out where we can keep really good track of our athletes," he said.

A group of administrators are regularly monitoring the practices to make sure that all teams are in compliance with established protocols, he added.

"Everybody wants to do it right because everybody wants it to continue. The coaches and athletes, their default position is we want to do this right," said Dale.

Importance of Cohorts

Matthews noted in his email to parents that the episode highlighted "why cohorts matter."

He said that in each phase of reopening thus far (relating to athletics, child care, and the high-needs hybrid program), the district has dealt with COVID issues that have required actions to keep students and employees safe. There have been students with family members who tested positive for COVID, as well as employees who developed COVID-like symptoms, and in one case, tested positive for COVID, he said.

But, Matthews said, "When our students and employees stay within their cohorts, we are able to restrict the impacted cohort and keep others safe."

MBUSD continues to follow the steps outlined in its health and safety protocols document, he added.

The athletics case comes at a time when COVID-19 numbers have been rising for Manhattan Beach and across the country. However, Los Angeles County is also showing a rise cases due to a previous backlog in reporting, so it is unclear how the county-wide backlog may have affected Manhattan Beach numbers.

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