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COVID-19 Affecting Iowa High School Baseball And Softball

Nick Brincks
IPR file
COVID-19 has already affected several high school baseball and softball teams that were allowed to go forward with their seasons.

Iowa high school baseball and softball teams were allowed to start their summer seasons earlier this month, but COVID-19 has already benched several teams.
The Woodbine Community School District’s baseball team will start playing again Monday after self-quarantining because a player tested positive for COVID-19. Principal and co-activities director Sam Swenson told IPR in an email that they found out about the positive case on June 12. The team followed county health recommendations to self-quarantine for two weeks from the last day the player was at practice, the Des Moines Register reported.

Other teams have more recently suspended their seasons and begun 14-day quarantines: Baseball players from Gehlen Catholic School in Le Mars and the Iowa Falls and Alden Community School Districts tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Iowa Falls-Alden Athletic Director Pat Norem said in an email "we are extremely disappointed” in the suspension of the season, but staff "are confident" that team members and coaches have followed health guidelines set by various sport associations, the county health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Some things are out of our control,” Norem said. “We may be one of the early schools impacted by this but I highly doubt we will be the last.”

The student who tested positive was a varsity player. He was asymptomatic and had attended practice on Tuesday, June 16. He was told after practice that his father had tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The family notified the school and the student did not return to practice after that day. He had also not attended any games, according to Norem.

The student was tested on Wednesday, June 17 and was informed of his positive result. The school was notified later that day and the team was told Thursday morning.

“We have worked closely with our county health representatives and determined a 14 day quarantine of all players in the student's practice pod as well as cancellation of all varsity games during that time period,” Norem said. “No [junior varsity] players were exposed as they did not interact with that practice pod. We may play JV games during the quarantine if schools on our schedule choose to; if not we completely support their decision.”

Norem said the team had competed against Clear Lake on Monday evening and St. Edmond on Wednesday evening, but the student who had tested positive was not at either game.

“Both schools have been made aware as have all remaining schools on our schedule,” Norem said, “athletic directors communicate very frequently – certainly in these situations.” 

Credit Amy Mayer / IPR file
IPR file
Cascade baseball players play against the North Cedar Knights.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds allowed high school baseball and softball to begin practicing on June 1, making Iowa the first state in the country to resume high school sports in the COVID-19 pandemic. Games were allowed to start two weeks later. The Iowa High School Athletic Association supported the decision. IHSAA Executive Director Tom Keating said baseball and softball fall between low to medium contact sports, while football and wrestling are considered high-contact. Keating said people can’t necessarily assume that there is a causal relationship between playing baseball or softball and contracting COVID-19.

“For the most part, I think we can assume that our young people and our coaches are not quarantining other than going to the ball diamond. They are going to other places,” Keating said. “Then the question becomes if they do contract the illness, did that happen somewhere else? Did that happen on the ball diamond?”

“We wish that wasn’t the case, ” Keating said on the various teams that have suspended their seasons because of COVID-19. “They just started up. They’re excited to play, then they get shut down. That’s got to be difficult for them.”

Read more: Guidance released by the Iowa Department of Education on summer sports

Since Iowa is the first state in the country to resume high school sports in the pandemic, Keating said there is “a lot riding on this.” The two sports give Iowa a chance to learn from itself and other states a chance to learn from Iowa.

Softball players from George-Little Rock Community Schools and Central Lyon Community Schools are allowed to return to practice and games on June 25 at the earliest after multiple players “had direct contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19,” according to a joint statement from the school districts' superintendents. The statement said they are still planning to play their varsity schedule.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.