Anchorage’s COVID-19 testing requirement for wrestling and ice sports receives a frosty reception

News that the city will require COVID-19 testing for all participants before indoor competitions for wrestling and ice sports like hockey and curling has amazed those associated with the affected sports.

The reactions ranged from disbelief to indignation, confusion and resignation.

Disbelief: “High school hockey will not perform under this testing requirement. I don’t think families are ready to have their kids tested so much, ”said Dimond High coach Dennis Sorenson.

Outrage: “It seems absolutely unreasonable and a violation of our rights,” said longtime hockey manager Louis Imbriani.

Confusion: “I’m a little nervous how this is going to be done. There are a lot of moving parts to ask every competitor, coach and official to be tested before every competition, ”said South High wrestling coach Randy Hanson.

Resignation: “I’m going to do whatever I can to get my kids back on the ice. Kids need sports, ”said Heather Greenough, the mother of two boys who play hockey.

The emergency order lifts the ban on indoor competitions in Anchorage, although competitions are limited to municipal teams and athletes.

For wrestling and ice sports – hockey, curling, figure skating, and speed skating – COVID-19 testing is not required more than 72 hours before a competition. The requirement applies to athletes, coaches, officials and any other participant.

Vaccinated participants are not exempt, but those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 within 90 days of the competition may be exempt under specific circumstances described in Annex E of the emergency order.

“I’m more angry than stunned,” said Sorenson, a teacher at Mears Middle School. “I’m already back in my college, teaching face to face and working with the kids every day in school, but we can’t play hockey. game?

“I just think they’re trying to restrict hockey. That does not make sense.

Children don’t need to be tested to return to school, Sorenson noted. And there are no testing requirements for other indoor sports that put players in close contact, such as basketball, which resumes competition on Tuesday in the Anchorage School District.

Sorenson and Imbriani argue that there is no scientific evidence that indoor hockey puts people at higher risk than other indoor sports.

“When I asked the town about this, they sent me a bunch of newspaper articles speculatively, whereas USA Hockey did a study”Said Imbriani.

He believes the sport is being targeted at least in part because of cases related to an October hockey tournament in Anchorage. He said participants who caught the virus spent time together away from the arena and did not believe the tournament had spread the disease.

“If this spread to the tournament, how come no referees got sick?” he said.

Imbriani, a member of Alaska hockey officials, said 70 officials are working games during the month of November – before the ban on indoor competitions – “and not a single one has been COVID.”

“I refused 63 games myself in November, and I didn’t get sick, ”he said.

Indoor juvenile hockey games occur elsewhere in Alaska, including the Kenai Valley and Peninsula, and crews from Anchorage frequently visit these locations. Imbriani said it won’t work games in Anchorage as long as the testing requirement is in place.

“I will continue to drive in the valley,” he said.

Greenough has two sons, aged 14 and 9, who play hockey, and she said Anchorage teams and leagues follow mitigation policies during practice, which has been allowed in recent weeks.

“We follow the rules,” she said. “We want our kids to be back on the ice, back on the field, back on the track. We want these children to play sports. Unfortunately, they set us apart.

She said she and her children had been tested several times, always with negative results. They traveled frequently for hockey, sometimes to the Lower 48 and frequently to the valley or the peninsula.

Greenough said her family will do what they need to do to continue playing, although they are baffled by the demands of the tests.

The city’s mandate states that if test results have not returned on the day of a competition, a rapid same-day antigen test can be used instead. It also states that weekly antigen testing is acceptable “when performed no more than 24 hours prior to competition and with a minimum of two weekly antigen tests required prior to the first competition”.

“And rapid tests aren’t 100% accurate, at least not 100%,” Greenough said.

The number of tests required could be staggering. Some athletes may need two tests in a week if they have two competitions more than 72 hours apart – for example, a double wrestling meet on Tuesday and a tournament on the weekend.

Hockey teams typically have 20 dressed players who should be tested, and many more will need testing as well, Sorenson said.

“Managers, coaches, cheerleaders, referees, scorers,” he said. “They may all have to do it themselves, maybe go to one of the sites (test) free, then sit on pins and needles to see if all the tests come back on time.

“It’s a logistical nightmare. And I don’t think you should be doing mandatory testing on athletes when you are not testing school kids.

Hanson, the South High coach, said he was happy the city opened the door for local wrestling competitions, but he is unsure how the tests will play out.

College teams run in-house testing every week and sometimes every day, he said, but high school programs will have to rely on parents taking the time to get their children tested.

“I feel like it’s going to be difficult to manage. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I think it will be difficult, ”he said.

Anchorage wrestlers have been to four out-of-state tournaments since last spring, Hanson said, and none of those competitions required COVID-19 testing.

“Just the normal health questionnaire and temperature checks for some but not all,” he said. “We didn’t have a problem, so it’s like wrestling and ice sports (are) being distinguished.

Social distancing is impossible in a sport like wrestling, he said, and wrestling is one of the few sports exempt from the city’s requirement that athletes wear masks, even when competing.

“Kids need (sports) – it’s just one of those things,” he said. “There are risks and you have to weigh them. I grew up in Bethel and we got on a little Bush plane every weekend to a nearby village. It is also a risk. “


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