“Out of an Abundance of Caution” Effects of COVID-19 on West Sports and Recent Game Cancellations


Robert Rassner and Benaya Zamir

West High’s football team recently cancelled a game with American Fork High School. This game was the second cancelled that week due to apparent COVID-19 concerns, raising questions about how West High’s sports teams will operate as COVID infections continue to surge. West isn’t the only school falling victim to concerns—earlier that week, American Fork stopped a drive mid-game due to broken mask regulations. In an interview, our principal Jared Wright mentioned a set of guidelines for when to cancel games. The game wasn’t required to be cancelled, but out of safety concerns, the decision to cancel it was made by a group of school officials, including Coach Solovi.

West’s sporting events are first set by the State Health Department, then Salt Lake City School District. When asked about the guidelines for cancelling games, Principal Wright stated that “West did not meet the thresholds for cancelling yet, but West felt that they were at the state of cancellation.” The cancellation of the game was not because of guidelines, but from “an abundance of caution” and worry about a lack of vaccinations. Principal Wright stated that the official guideline says if there are 10 or more positive cases on a team, team events will be cancelled. Among the West High football team, there have been 3 positive cases, along with a few other players that felt ill but tested negative. The team has also taken other measures to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19. Coach Solovi has the team practicing in pods based on position since the players couldn’t wear masks when practicing. Out of the 6 or 8 pods, there have been three positive tests in three different pods. 

When asked about the state of the cancellation, Principal Wright told us; “Had it been the last game with major playoff implications, we still would’ve cancelled.” The decision to cancel was discussed by Salt Lake City School District officials and West administrators, and the official decision was made by Doctor Gatson, the superintendent of the school district. When we asked how the Principal found out about these cases and concerns he answered with great confidence, saying: “Coach Solovi came to me, and told me about the state of the team.” After communication with Coach Solovi, Principal Wright told us the decision to cancel was “easy.” When American Fork heard of the possibility of the game being cancelled, they were very supportive and understanding of the extra caution being taken by West. Although the whole football team had to be isolated, Principal Wrightwas enthusiastic about the positive effects of the outbreak. It gave players the motivation to get vaccinated, and a great number of players got their first vaccination because of the shutdown. This football game was not a win or loss for West, so its cancellation will not affect playoffs. 

Recently, a variety of other sporting events have also been cancelled due to COVID-19. These cancellations include a volleyball game and several cheer events. However, it is much easier to prevent COVID outbreaks in most other fall sports; because most fall sports are played outdoors, athletes can easily be spread out to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. In contact sports such as football, however, preventing spread is much more difficult. The approach West has taken to curb COVID-19 has been much more proactive than those employed by schools in other districts, such as American Fork High School’s Alpine School District. Principal Wright mentioned that if we were in a school such as American Fork, very few, if any, people would likely be wearing masks. Conversely, masks are required at West.