Swim team Covid-19 outbreak creates waves as season opens


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As the positive cases on the team grew, so did the restrictions on who was able to compete. Ventura County Public Health is in charge of creating the protocols for each unique situation.

Claire Trask and Ava Okun

Buena’s swim team experienced a perfect storm the weekend of Feb. 25, as many athletes tested positive for Covid-19. In the wake of mandates and protocols in schools changing, the swim team still fell victim to the virus, leading to a bigger issue.

According to Shaun Strople, Buena’s Athletic Director of three years, athletes who have tested positive for the virus are instructed to “contact health services” who then follow up with the students regarding their return date to school. 

“It is the student’s job to report [a positive test] to the school,” Strople said.

If more than one student on a team tests positive, Ventura County Public Health makes a decision on the immediate future of the team such as whether or not the team is able to compete or who on the team can compete. The team can be shut down, or receive modified quarantine periods for exposed athletes.

“In terms of the way we are directing athletes to go to health services, [we] then report [it] to the district [which] then [goes] to Ventura County Public Health,” Strople said. “That is all consistent [to every sport].” 

When students test positive for Covid-19, their positive test result might have a greater impact than initially realized. The chart above shows how the school and district process positive test results, and make decisions for the futures of the sports teams involved. (Ava Okun)

After a number of students tested positive over the weekend of Feb. 25, In order to attend their swim meet Mar. 4, the entire swim team was advised to test all the athletes Wed and Fri, prior to the meet. The coaches and athletes all complied with the wishes of the meet directors and health advisors from the school and the county. In order to keep them running, Ventura County Public Health took all of the unvaccinated students off of the roster for the meet.

“A few of our teammates had tested positive [Friday] morning, and then they preemptively took out all of the unvaccinated kids from the roster, as if we had Covid,” senior Micah McGranahan said.

The unvaccinated students were sent home, and asked to quarantine for the 10 day period, even though they tested negative. According to varsity head coach, Scott Manninen, the biggest issue was the exposure of the student’s vaccination status. 

“When we were about to leave, they pulled a group of kids aside and told them they could not go to the meet,” junior Gabby Swaim said. “The kids were all frantically calling their parents, saying ‘We have to go home right now, we do not know what’s happening.’”

Usually a team of about 50 athletes, the swim team was struck down by a large margin, with only about 18-20 of the athletes attending the meet, according to Manninen.

“We had to twist rules, I had to race twice in one event because it was a relay,” Swaim said. “We could barely participate.”

Losing the meet and missing most of the team meant a sour start for the swim season.

“It was definitely a let down for the first meet of the season,” McGranahan said. Swaim shared the same feelings of disappointment.

In response to parent frustrations following the event, coaches Manninen and Amanda Graves sent out a letter to the athletes’ families in an attempt to have open communication with parents about what occurred. In the redacted email, they asked that families to direct their questions, comments and concerns directly to the district. 

Manninen and Graves sent another email following the redaction of the previous letter, stating the following:

In this screenshot from an email sent out to families and swimmers, Coaches Amanda Graves and Scott Manninen address the since redacted email sent previously in attempt to alleviate frustrations felt by parents. “Graves and I are so much about team and family,” Coach Manninen said.

After the event, the team is working hard and swimming hard, continuing to remain resilient despite the challenges student athletes living through a pandemic face. The future of their season is bright, both athletes and coaches optimistic of what is to come.

“We are getting back together, we are swimming hard,” Manninen said.