What new Metro Health guidance means for school sports in San Antonio

Athletic programs should be tied to risk-level indicator, according to directive

A student athlete runs a drill during a strength and conditioning camp at Arlington Martin High School Thursday, June 18, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero, file) (Lm Otero, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – The amount of high school athletics allowed during the upcoming school year should depend on the severity of community spread in Bexar County, according to the amended health directive issued Friday by Metro Health.

Under the new order, Metro Health officials recommend Bexar County school districts plan their operations around the public health department metrics amid the COVD-19 pandemic.

The school safety indicator, unveiled earlier this week by Metro Health, includes three risk levels - red, yellow, and green - based on three factors:

  • Positivity rate - which is defined as the percentage of lab tests performed in the past week that ended up being positive for COVID-19. The rate is currently at 14.9% The goal is to get it down to 5% or lower.
  • Doubling time - which is defined as how many days it takes for the number of cases to double. The doubling time is currently at 21 days which Woo described as “good.”
  • Two-week continuous decline in COVID-19 cases, which hasn’t currently been reached.

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The indicator, first revealed Wednesday during a virtual town hall hosted by the city, shows the current risk level in Bexar County is high, which is the red zone.

When the risk level is high, or the indicator is red, “no athletic competitions should take place in person, on or off campus,” according to the directive. Athletes can still engage in drills or conditioning at home with members of their household.

When the risk level is moderate, or the indicator is yellow, athletic competitions still should not take place, according to the guidance. But, they can conduct “no-contact, socially distanced practices in small, fixed cohorts of six or fewer students.”

When the risk is low and the indicator is green, sports can begin to return, but social distancing guidelines are still recommended. The order directs officials to assess the risk for sports and follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

School districts are required to report to Metro Health weekly the number of COVID-19-positive students and teachers, the percentage of staff and students absent or sent home in the last 14 days due to COVID-like illness and the number of students with influenza-like illness.

While most school district officials in Bexar County plan to follow Metro Health’s guidance, the directive as it relates to opening classrooms is not enforceable. Attorney General Ken Paxton issued his opinion, stating that schools were not required to follow local health authority directives, which was backed by Gov. Greg Abbott who said only local school district boards can decide when and how they should reopen.

High school football games in the area have already been delayed due to the pandemic.

Read the full directive below:

About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.