Ketchikan High School has been put on notice.
Region V President Jaime Cabral sent a letter to Kayhi and Alaska School Activites Association Executive Director Billy Strickland, warning the high school of possible sanctions due to failing to follow Region V policies concerning its novel coronavirus mitigation plan at the Bill Weiss wrestling tournament on April 24, and that future violations could result in Kayhi being denied membership in Region V for the 2021-22 school year.
“From what I understand, Region V had adopted, I believe unanimously, including Ketchikan, that prior to any wrestling competition, all the participants would (be) tested for COVID-19,” Strickland said. “And it turned out that Ketchikan did not do so, and a student of their’s participated, and was positive for COVID, and that led to various schools having to put their programs into quarantine.”
Strickland made clear he was not speaking on behalf of Region V, although the Daily News’ attempts reaching out to Cabral were not returned.
“The regions are autonomous from ASAA,” Strickland said. “So while I’m kind of in the loop, it’s really more of a Region V issue.”
But Strickland was aware of the situation.
“It’s led to some cancellations of some baseball games and track meets, and so forth,” he said. “So it’s been pretty impactful for the schools in Region V.”
Eight teams were in town for the Bill Weiss tournament, including teams from Metlakatla, Craig, Haines, Mt. Edgecumbe, Sitka, Petersburg, Thorne Bay and Wrangell high schools.
Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools canceled their soccer teams’ trips to Ketchikan this week.
Sitka’s softball team canceled its trip to Ketchikan, as well, and both Kayhi ‘s baseball team and track and field team were forced to cancel their trips to Sitka this weekend.
On Tuesday, five COVID-19 positive cases were traced to the wrestling tournament, with one also attending Kayhi’s prom and a parent-sponsored afterparty on April 24.
In the ensuing recent days, positive COVID-19 cases have continued to be considered “close contact” stemming from the Kayhi cluster.
Kayhi is closed the rest of the week, and classes are online.
Strickland said ASAA requires negative COVID-19 tests for state events.
“We are requiring that all participants at wrestling have a negative COVID test,” he said. “There are three different ways schools can meet that requirement.
“They’re also exempt from the testing requirement, if they’ve been vaccinated, or if they’ve had COVID within the last 90 days and are currently asymptomatic, and are cleared by a physician to participate,” he continued.
Participants can take a molecular test within 72 hours of the event, or they can take an antigen test.
“(That’s) more the rapid test,” Strickland said. “You can do those twice a week, as long as there are 24 hours between tests. And then that makes you good for the rest of the week.
“For most of the schools, what they’re doing — because they can use these tests that the Department of Health is basically giving them for free ... but you can basically test the kids on Monday, and again on Wednesday, and then they’re cleared for the rest of the week,” he continued.
There also is a single antigen test, but that is only good for 24 hours.
“That’s the one that people are trying to avoid because you don’t want to test kids while you’re at a state tournament,” Strickland said. “... So we recommend to the schools, of the three tests, to do the twice a week antigen.”
But that’s the requirement for the state tournament.
“A lot of schools are adopting it for the regular season,” Strickland said. “I know Anchorage is doing it, Mat-Su, Fairbanks, Kenai, and it sounded like the Region V schools were making that requirement.”
In addition to Cabral, the Daily News also reached out to Troy Thain, who is a Region V ASAA representative, as well as Craig’s wrestling coach. Thain was not able to speak on the matter on Thursday.
Kayhi Activitites directed the Daily News to Ketchikan School District Business Manager Katie Parrott, although attempts to reach Parrott were not returned.
“For some reason, and I don’t know — I haven’t heard Ketchikan’s side of it,” Strickland said. “But for whatever reason, they did not have their kids tested, and then did have a positive case (from) a kid that did wrestle. Once there’s a positive case, public health starts taking over and determines who’s a close contact, and a lot of those kinds of things.”
In addition to testing, mask wearing was not enforced. While masks are not required for competitors on the mat during a wrestling match, they are required to be worn by wrestlers on the sideline watching a match, as well as coaches and fans, at all times while at the indoor sporting event.
“We have a very similar requirement as it applies to the state tournament,” Strickland said. “And, you know, we would be pretty harsh on a violator. Because it jeopardizes a lot of schools involved, and a lot of activities.”