Ketchikan emergency officials now say at least five people were infected with COVID-19 and contagious during last month’s indoor wrestling tournament at Ketchikan High School. The event has since been linked to at least a dozen new cases across the region, officials say.
The regional governing body for school sports says Ketchikan High School did not test its wrestlers prior to the Bill Weiss Tournament on April 23 and 24.
That’s despite rules requiring them to do so. Region Five of the Alaska School Activities Association issued a formal warning to the high school last week. The organization also said Ketchikan High School had not enforced a mask requirement at the tournament.
“Due to Ketchikan High School’s actions, Region 5 schools and communities have been subjected to unnecessary health and safety risks related to COVID-19,” the letter reads.
The organization told school officials that future violations could result in the school being denied membership next school year. That would have far-reaching consequences for high school sports and activities — most inter-district competition is organized through ASAA Region Five.
Jaime Cabral, the president of ASAA’s regional office, which was in charge of setting and enforcing COVID-19 precautions, did not return calls seeking comment this week. ASAA’s executive director, Billy Strickland says the head office in Anchorage is concerned that when a sporting event is a COVID-19 cluster, communities may be hesitant to allow their students to travel.
“If something like this happens, that’s one thing, but if it also happens, and somebody wasn’t following the mitigation plans in place, then it becomes harder for other schools to be able to continue their participation because you’ve lost that trust factor,” Strickland said in a phone interview.
Ketchikan school district officials released a prepared statement Tuesday.
“The District is in the process of gathering information regarding the circumstances of the allegations outlined in the warning letter, and has 30 days to review and respond in writing to Region V’s warning. Once the District completes a comprehensive analysis of the situation, a response will be provided outlining any steps that will be implemented to address identified concerns,” acting Superintendent Katie Parrott said in an email.
Ketchikan High School was closed much of last week, but the school reopened Monday at full capacity. Students returned to distance learning Tuesday after the district announced two more people at the school had tested positive. Ketchikan’s school district announced Tuesday evening that the school would remain closed through at least Friday, with after-school activities canceled until at least Monday.
Wrestlers from high schools in Metlakatla, Craig, Thorne Bay, Petersburg, Wrangell, Sitka and Haines attended the tournament.
This story has been updated to reflect that Ketchikan High School will remain closed through Friday.