Winter sports require COVID-19 vaccinations for players



Information found on FCPS COVID-19 Health Metric website.

Maddie Bernet, Staff Writer

Starting Nov. 8, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) announced that vaccines will be required for athletes ages 16 and older with the possibility of exceptions for players with a religious or health exemption. Athletes who are ages 12-15 without a vaccine and those who are age 16 and over who have an exemption will need to get a COVID-19 test once a week. Having a previous infection will not count as being vaccinated, according to FCPS. 

Contact sports are especially high risk, with players breathing on each other while playing. Masks will be required when players are not participating in their games and practices.

“During practice when [athletes are] not involved in an activity, they’re supposed to be wearing a mask,” assistant director of student activities Kevin Ford said. “Mainly, it’s more basketball because the players are coming in and out of the game.” 

COVID-19 tests will be provided at the high school, after school hours, for those athletes who require them. FCPS has reported that approximately 2,000 athletes across the district should be tested every week during the winter and spring seasons. COVID-19 screening will begin Nov. 15, 2021, according to FCPS.

According to the FCPS website on vaccination requirements for athletics, the new requirements are an additional safety measure to support the district’s layered COVID-19 prevention strategies. The website states that an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in sports programs can lead to a large number of students being paused from in-person learning and participation in their sports.  

“There are families who don’t believe in [the vaccine],” basketball player and  junior Emma Tan said. “I think a couple [athletes will not show up], but nothing dramatic.”

Beginning on Oct. 4, 2021, students and coaches could begin submitting proof of vaccination. Students and coaches are required to show their vaccination cards to authorized school personnel. Each school is providing specific details and instructions for their athletes and coaches. According to FCPS, as of Aug. 30, 2021, 75.4% of all students in the district are fully vaccinated and 85.7% have at least one dose.

“I honestly think that everyone should be vaccinated,” varsity swimmer and senior Taylor Swope said. “[With vaccinations], we are all able to slow down the spread of COVID-19 as a community. The vaccine requirements will be a main factor in helping keep the number of cases down when players are inside and compete with lots of other people.”

Because some athletes might not be vaccinated or may experience a breakthrough infection, a few safety measures will take place if there is a positive COVID-19 test on a team. Teams will be paused if an athlete or coach has a positive COVID-19 test, according to Ford, and contact tracing will also take place. 

“The new rules/regulations are a step in the right direction to try and keep everyone safe in our sports,” Ford said.