Covid-19 waiver elicits controversy regarding health
The early return of sports might be a surprise to many; however, with proper health guidelines and safety precautions, this return is quite realistic.
As an initial precaution, the WHS athletic department has issued a COVID-19 waiver that all students participating in sports must sign. The waiver mainly emphasizes the voluntary nature of students returning to their sports, so that the district is not engrossed in legal issues in the event a student is infected with COVID-19. In addition, the waiver also includes information regarding the execution of the sports season, which is primarily through the use of basic procedures such as mandatory mask usage and social distancing whenever necessary.
The distribution of this waiver to all athletes is sufficient in that it acknowledges the athlete’s freedom to choose whether or whether not to participate in their respective sports in this year’s season. As there is no solid solution to COVID-19, it is vital that athletes understand that there is a high risk of them contracting the virus, albeit the face mask and social distancing measures.
At the moment, all the district can do is control the environments in which the athletes will compete and enforce the aforementioned health measures and state regulations. Clearly, the district cannot control the students themselves other than through a statement that is the waiver. With the waiver, students will not only be more informed, but they will also be more cautious returning to the sport, as the district will be relinquishing their jurisdiction of the health and safety of the athletes to the parents.
The introduction of the COVID-19 waiver ultimately demonstrates the district’s warning to athletes and parents, ensuring they understand the potential risks and guidelines they must acknowledge going forward. Signing the waiver furthermore proves the willingness of the parent and athlete to adhere to what the district mandates, contributing to an overall safer environment for athletes to compete in.
Returning to sports for many athletes is a big deal. Some see sports as a way to enjoy aspects of school other than academic classes. Others take it much more seriously especially if they possess the potential and skill to attend college under a scholarship. But to return to voluntary sports practices, athletes must sign a waiver that does not hold the school accountable if they were to contract the virus. Although this seems reasonable and quite frankly, one of the only doable and realistic ways for student athletes to return to sports practices, should student athletes surrender their rights and the only way they have to hold the school accountable to ensure the highest quality of safety protection for them and their teams?.
If the school trusts student athletes to be responsible and keep themselves safe by following safety guidelines, then the school administrators should feel comfortable enough to not require a waiver to be signed before returning to practice. On the other hand, if the school feels that there is a legitimate risk of students contracting and spreading the virus, then why would they still hold voluntary practices? If the school does not trust student athletes, then they should improve the screening process and perhaps even take extra precautions such as taking the athlete’s temperature when they enter the campus and even observe them for any symptoms of Covid-19.
To ensure that all returning student athletes are well aware of not the risks, but the safety precautions being taken, a COVID-19 video titled “Walnut High School(WHS) Return to Physical Activity Parent Informational Video” was created by Principal Ryan Maine, Athletic Director Jerry Person and the school’s Athletic Trainer Faith Villanueva. They discussed the school’s new system of ensuring safety such as a check in booth and a pre-practice google form for all athletes to fill out. However, they did not discuss the school’ s response plan if any COVID-19 cases were detected among student athletes or coaches. After the video is watched by parents, they must sign that they have indeed watched the video to understand LA County Guidelines and how the school is not liable for any COVID-19 cases. However, by signing the contract, parents are acknowledging not the risks of returning back to practice, but how the school plans to limit contact between athletes and coaches.
So far, the school has taken to some extent physical precautions such as ensuring that all athletes entering practice come through the same gate designated as the entrance, that there is a separate exit gate, that athletes line up on a line before checking in and proceeding to their practice area on stickers six feet apart from the next, and that student athletes are never to be left alone but must remain in the company of their coaches. Once athletes reach the gate, they must have their student ID card scanned, which will notify the coaches and Athletic Director if they filled out the WHS COVID Symptoms Report Google Form on that same day, before coming to practice. Unfortunately, these precautions are not the most effective. When filling out the google form, it is easy to go through the 11 questions on page two without reading it while checking “no” for each box.
In addition, some of the questions on the box are difficult to gage, in particular three of them. The first being if student athletes have “extreme level of fatigue.” When considering their answer, student athletes must not only gauge the possible symptoms of COVID-19, but also if their previous practice had left them more tired than usual or if they slept less last night and therefore feel more tired. The second question asks if they have “body/muscle aches.” Again, previous practices can leave athletes more sore than usual, especially if they are out of shape and have not properly maintained their fitness since their previous season. The final and most important question asks if the student athlete has been “in close contact with any person who has been tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days?” How are students supposed to gauge this? What if they go out to a restaurant and come in close proximity with lots of other guests. How could they possibly know if any person had the virus? What if they just contracted the virus the day before. Or worse of all, what if they are carriers and therefore exhibit no physical symptoms. They can’t. This makes the Google Form not only precarious, but also an unreliable factor to determine if students are safe enough to return to practice.
WHS has allowed for practices to return, just like many other schools across campus, and attempts to make them as normal as possible. But despite them enforcing these many safety precautions, the school still fails to explain their response if a student were to contract the virus and possibly spread it to other athletes. Student athletes and their parents understand the risk, but don’t see any effective solutions that would dismiss their concerns.
By Jacob Khuu, Sports editor and Matthew Au, Manager