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Concerns arise over effectiveness of youth sports COVID-19 screening process

Phase 3 of a return-to-play plan was put on pause due to the rise in positive COVID-19 cases across St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — Many high school sports teams in St. Louis were preparing to enter Phase 3 of a return-to-play plan on Monday, but that motion got put on pause due to the rise in positive COVID-19 cases across St. Louis.

This means 31 public schools in the St. Louis Suburban Conference will continue following Phase 2 protocols in a plan designed by the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 task force.

Most high school football teams in the conference began summer workouts this week, which required coaches or team trainers to complete a symptom questionnaire with each athlete before he or she could begin workouts.

Sports medicine doctor Rick Lehman said symptom questionnaires can be somewhat beneficial if a person responds accurately, but he doesn’t believe it’s the best method to utilize.

“You’re not really able to monitor anything doing that,” Lehman said. “So, they may be truthful, they may not be truthful. If you’re not going to COVID test, there’s no way to really determine if they’re COVID positive or COVID negative.”

The majority, if not all, of those schools aren’t currently providing resources for player temperature checks on a regular basis. None are providing COVID-19 testing.

Lehman said it’s important that athletes and family members of athletes participating in summer workouts still get tested for COVID-19.

“I think if a parent can afford to test their child, let’s say every two weeks, or every month, and it’s gonna be $50, and they have the financial resources to do that,” Lehman said. “That’s the best thing they could possibly do.”

Lehman added that there’s simply no way of monitoring what each player or coach does outside of practices. He said he encourages families to take extra precautions, and to have realistic expectations.

“I think you’re just gonna have to accept that there’s gonna be a number of kids that are gonna test positive,” Lehman said. “And what you wanna do, is you wanna make sure you don’t have a problem with those kids going home to and giving it to grandpa and grandma. But I think to say, ‘We’re gonna stop the spread in football with that kind of protocol,’ I think is not realistic.”

The St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force said it will re-evaluate the decision to enter Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan on July 21.

If approved, teams will be able to begin Phase 3 on July 26.

Phase 3 includes the use of equipment, scrimmages and game competition.

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