MHSAA discusses rapid antigen testing for student athletes

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan High School Athletic Association held a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss Gov. Whitmer’s announcement about required rapid antigen testing for student athletes

Hours earlier, the governor ordered that student athletes must take part in a weekly testing program to eligible to practice and play sports. 

On Friday afternoon, MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said full guidance on the new requirement from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services won’t be posted to the state’s coronavirus website until Saturday, so there are still lots of questions about the order. 

One of the biggest questions regards spring sports, with season practice starting soon. Uyl said it’s not yet clear if weekly testing will be required for athletes in non-contact sports, like golf and tennis. 

“How many winter kids are going to be affected by this? The answer is, it’s less than 2,000 and truth be told, it’s really 950 kids that have not been testing will be required to test,” Uyl said.  

Another question surrounds junior high school students. The new order impacts athletes ages 13 to 19, which includes middle school-aged kids. Uyl said he’s waiting on more guidance to clarify how that testing will take place. 

The testing order comes after news that Michigan COVID-19 cases in the 10 to 19 age group have recently been increasing at the highest rate of all age groups, many of which can be traced to sporting events. 

“In January and February, local health departments identified 315 outbreaks associated with different sports teams related to clubs, schools and recreational sports,” MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said during the news conference. 

Portage Central High School Athletic Director Joe Wallace says his district takes testing seriously and has provided more tests than what is required by the state. 

“Right now, the winter sports expectations have been for wrestling and wrestling only, and those tests were 24 hours prior to a competition as they are a contact sport,” Wallace said. 

Following positive cases discovered on the basketball team several weeks ago, the district has continued to test players as a precaution. 

“We’ve had some in four out of our six levels of basketball and we had some quarantining happening and then we decided as a school to just shut down our basketball programing for about 10 days,” Wallace said.  

The athletic directors at Portage Central and Portage Northern high schools ordered additional testing kits Friday morning shortly after the announcement. 

“We secured 1,200 per school to kind of get us going, and then we’ll certainly need to order more as the spring progresses into April and May,” Wallace said. 

Rapid antigen testing will begin on April 2. The MHSAA says spring sports practices start on March 22.  

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