High school sports adjust to COVID-19 reality in Wisconsin

The Friday night lights were on, but the Whitefish Bay football field was empty on Friday night, Oct. 23.

Hours before kickoff, the district notified families that, due to an increased number of COVID-19 cases and close-contact quarantines on the Whitefish Bay football team, the game against West Bend West had been postponed.

The district did not say how many players tested positive for COVID-19, but according to U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams it doesn't matter.

"The safest thing for us to do is to assume we have it, assume that everyone else around us has it," said Adams.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams

The surgeon general's warning comes on the heels of a new study that likely put players, families and coaches at ease.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health surveyed 30,000 Wisconsin high school athletes participating in fall sports. Just 271 contracted the virus, compared to 2,318 Wisconsin kids in the same age group, leading researchers to determine that sports have not caused an increase in COVID-19 infection rates.

"Whatever it takes to keep this going and in this case it happens to be whatever takes to keep clean," said Greg Brazgel, Lake Country Lutheran High School football coach.

Fans watch a high school football game in Wisconsin during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sanitizing equipment and daily screenings have kept Lake Country Lutheran players on the field.

Back in Whitefish Bay, though, it's unclear when football will make a comeback. Or rather which team, according to the surgeon general, will next be sidelined by COVID-19.

"People are hanging out with more and more and more folks who are outside their immediate household, and that's where we think a lot of the spread is occurring," Adams said.

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The UW study only surveyed 207 of the state's schools and only examined fall sports. In addition to student-athletes, the data compiled assessed more than 16,000 practices and more than 4,000 games.

Surgeon general issues guidance amid Wisconsin's COVID-19 surge

While several factors are at play, the surgeon general said one of Wisconsinites' best qualities -- valuing togetherness -- is also hurting residents when it comes to the coronavirus.

UW study: High school sports have not spread the coronavirus

Researchers led by Dr. Andrew Watson surveyed 207 schools that restarted fall sports in September, representing more than 30,000 athletes, more than 16,000 practices and more than 4,000 games.