A series of positive novel coronavirus test results has affected at least eight girls’ high school basketball varsity programs, causing a number of games to be canceled or postponed, and placed several local squads in quarantine or on a pause from team activities.
Paul Gordon, president of the Capital District Board of Women’s Basketball Officials, confirmed that two referees tested positive after working a local high school game last weekend. That came after a school notified the referees’ association that it had two players from that game test positive for COVID-19. Subsequently, those officials — who had also worked other games, and interacted with other teams — were tested, and had positive results.
“It was a few days after that game,” Gordon said. “The school let us know as soon as they found out that the players had tested positive.”
Contract tracing resulting from the referees testing positive then led to precautionary measures for six additional schools besides the two from the original game.
The Schenectady girls’ basketball program is quarantined through this upcoming Tuesday after being notified of its exposure.
“It’s more of a safety precaution,” Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton said. “If anybody shows any signs, we’re shut down longer. We don’t have anyone with any signs at this point.”
Boynton said the school district was notified Tuesday.
“People are not happy when you have a limited season as it is, but I don’t think anyone is upset,” Boynton said. “Everyone is living in a world that it could happen to anybody.”
The state’s “high” risk winter sports, including basketball, were much-delayed in starting their seasons because of state and county restrictions related to the pandemic. Most counties within the greater Capital Region started play in early February.
The Niskayuna girls’ varsity team is quarantined until next Friday after one of the referees who tested positive worked the Silver Warriors’ game against either Scotia-Glenville on Monday or Shaker on Wednesday.
“The refs are stretched so thin right now,” said Niskayuna coach Sarah Neely, referencing how dozens of area referees have opted out of working this winter’s games, many because of concerns related to COVID-19. “They’ve told me they’re refereeing multiple games a night.m The same guys or girls are [officiating] everybody, and if one of them gets sick, then they’re going to take out a whole bunch of teams. It’s just too bad the way it happened.”
Gordon confirmed that Schenectady, Ballston Spa, Scotia-Glenville, and Niskayuna along with four other unnamed programs were affected by the positive test results.
Unrelated to the girls’ basketball situation, the pandemic is affecting two area boys’ basketball programs.
Fulton County teams were only allowed to start playing this week, but Johnstown didn’t play its game Thursday against Mayfield because it only had six available players. Johnstown acting athletic director Mike Satterlee said the basketball team’s other seven players were quarantined through Sunday after a student not associated with the team tested positive, and they were unable to fulfill the six-practice requirement before Thursday’s scheduled game.
“We thought it was wiser not to play [with six players],” Satterlee said. “Not right now. The guys are just coming back and a lot of them haven’t done anything in some time. We didn’t want to get anyone hurt.”
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons has ceased team activities until Wednesday, according to boys’ basketball coach Steve Garzone.
“We’re on pause until midnight on Tuesday. It’s not [because of] referees,” Garzone said. “It’s really just a precautionary thing, from the school district and department of health. We’re on pause for the right reasons, the safety of the kids.”
The developing situation this week with area girls’ varsity basketball has also greatly affected the staffing level for the area’s referees. Gordon said 10 officials are currently sidelined; besides the two who tested positive for COVID-19, eight more “out of an abundance of caution” were temporarily shut down because of coronavirus exposures.
“If any of those eight test positive,” Gordon said, “we will lose four more by the end of the weekend.”