Safety protocols protect student-athletes on campus

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Graphic courtesy of David Hastings ('22).

Mathew Gooch (‘22) checks in with Dean Lantz at the Day Student Parking Lot.

130,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in California forced state officials to launch a stay-at-home order on Tuesday, December 8th. Over 200,000 cases were reported the following week. Despite this, on November 30th, Webb welcomed back student-athletes for sports practices for the first time since students departed campus in March.  

This decision created a buzz of emotions that has reverberated across the community. Some athletes are not partaking in these activities, as there is still confusion amid record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases. Their hesitation is understandable, especially having seen how the pandemic has complicated sports at even higher levels. However, Webb’s situation is comparatively more manageable. 

A Medical Advisory Board was compiled in March, complete with members of the administration and Webb community members in the medical field. This group created a plan that has allowed a safe and comfortable way for student-athletes to begin training for their season on campus. 

“Back in March, I assembled a voluntary group of Webb alumni and parents who are medical doctors,” said Taylor Stockdale, Head of School. “On it is Dr. Dan Gluckstein, the leading infectious disease expert at Pomona Valley Hospital, Dr. Rhami Mowjood (‘90), Dr. Sandra Lee (‘88), and Dr. Carlos Baiz, the Webb Physician. We also have Dr. Smith, Mrs. Peddy, Mr. Woodward, Mr. Fass, Ms. Baron (‘96), and Mr. Szanyi as the Dean of Faculty.” 

There was a complex decision-making process by this cohort that led Webb to ultimately allow athletes back onto campus. Multiple variables had to be thought over and dealt with in order to create a safe program. 

“This group has been planning for a very limited athletic conditioning program. Every bit of it, including the screening app, how kids come in, how they’re checked in, masks, proper social distance, was thoroughly planned, Mr. Stockdale said. “We then developed a strategy for alternating certain programs coming on certain days, so we don’t have everyone coming onto campus on one day.” 

The Medical Advisory Board meets on a weekly basis, constantly adapting to a pandemic that changes course week to week. 

“As the surge has gotten more pronounced in our area, we have been circling back and cross-checking to be sure that this is something we want to continue,” Mr. Stockdale said,And everyone has been unanimous in the decision to continue it, and with the way we are doing it, it is incredibly safe.” 

The health office has also been playing a key part in this whole process, with Stephanie Baron, Health Center Director, as its representative on the Medical Advisory Board Guidance on sports practice protocols is constantly being received from the LA County Department of Public Health.  

“The surges are very concerning with community spread in this area,” Ms. Baron said.But what they (LA County Department of Public Health) haven’t noticed, is any of the surges being tied to youth sports in California because there are very strict guidelines of how those things can be run.” 

Webb took this information and ran with it, having a lot of confidence in these findings. 

“The county always errs on the side of caution,” Ms. Baron said. “They’re very conservative in terms of their approach in mitigating risk and controlling spread but youth sports was one of the things they said they felt could be run safely and we shared that sentiment as well.” 

Last week, Webb faced a bump in the road when a football player, who attended one of the practices on campus, was tested positive for COVID-19. 

“We learned of the positive case (on December 10th) and had to backtrack from there,” Ms. Baron said. “We act as quickly as possible when we learn something, but with the way testing is and the time between testing and getting results, sometimes notification can happen later than what we would like. However, we have so many layers of safeguards in place that we really don’t think anyone was at risk.” 

All in all, these past few weeks have brought a lot of excitement about what the future may hold after the successes of the sports practices. There is still a lot of unknowns, but there is more energy in the Webb community than ever. 

“These new guidelines are restrictive but necessary,” Logan Causley (22) said. “I think if we all follow them accordingly, we could have a shot of being back on campus before the end of the year and that is worth every single ounce of effort.  

Mr. Stockdale shared this hopeful sentiment.  

“This has been a very helpful first step in getting kids back,” Mr. Stockdale said. “It’s been very good to have a very small group of kids back just to sort of get our sea legs a little bit and to check all of our processes. 

With a vaccine being distributed, the Webb Community is looking towards February 22nd to hopefully open the campus up during the day. We will have to see how cases develop over the holiday break, but if we all do our part to protect our community by following social distancing and mask guidelines, we could see ourselves back at Webb soon.