Holt football returns amid COVID-19 concerns

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Holt High Cchool football is a few games into their season after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reinstated fall sports. 

Whitmer rescinded Executive Order 160, which shut down all fall athletics, but going back immediately was not a guarantee. 

“Just because Gov. Whitmer opens up sports doesn’t necessarily mean that school districts are going to follow,” Holt Athletic Director Renee Sadler said. 

The county follows a tier system where the Michigan High School Athletic Association can make overarching decisions, but each district can make their own conclusion to play. Lansing School District sports remained shut down, for example, but Holt decided to play. 

Deciding to play football brought excitement and a bit of normalcy, but some families in the area had reservations. 

“There’s been a mixed reaction here in Holt,” Sadler said. “I have some students who have older parents and parents that are compromised that have expressed concern to me. That was something I wasn’t necessarily expecting.” 

With the heightened caution, many procedures have been implemented within the football program to ensure player safety and well being for all. The players go through a checklist before every practice. 

“We’ll have one coach checking everybody’s temperaterature when they come in,” Holt head football coach Chad Fulk said. “Then all of the coaches have on our phones a link to a Google form, which is the pre-screening questions for every single kid.” 

The questionnaire includes a list of symptoms the players can self report. The responses are recorded on a spreadsheet with access for all board members. If a player does test positive, the county is aware immediately. 

“The first thing we would do is contact the Ingham County Health Department,” Sadler said. “We would assist them with the contact tracing. Every time a student athlete enters the campus, our coaches screen them. So if a player tests positive, I can actually go back to when that player was logged in and find out who was logged in with him.” 

Holt is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of close contact when dealing with any player that tests positive. The CDC’s website defines that as “someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.” 

While coaches and players are back out on the field, the justness of playing football but not being in person at school is confusing, even to the football coach. 

“Sure, I want to play football,” Fulk said. “The hypocrisy of not being able to go to English class with a face mask on and being 6 feet away from someone else, but I can run around here and spit on somebody and tackle them for three hours doesn’t sit right.” 

The season is now in week three with Holt already facing Waverly and Fowlerville, sitting at an even record for the season.  

“Everybody for the most part has been very understanding,” Sadler said. “You always have to put it back in perspective. We want to do what’s best for the kids in the end.”

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