Now that the district has a better understanding of how many students and staff are infected with COVID-19, Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said, all sports can continue with the same COVID-19 precautions. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

All sports and extracurricular activities in the Santa Barbara Unified School will resume immediately, following a week of screening more than 10,000 students and 1,400 staff members.

Students returned to schools on January 3, and on January 6 more than 150 students and staff members tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a district-wide mandatory screening for all available and eligible students and staff. As of Friday, January 14, 681 students and 60 staff members tested positive for COVID-19, though this doesn’t account for the more than 2,000 students and 200 staff members who have been absent. 

Initially, the district only postponed indoor sporting activities but later decided on January 6 to halt all sports and extracurricular activities after the growing spike in COVID-19 cases began overwhelming the district’s ability to contact trace. District Superintendent Hilda Maldonado called the decision to momentarily suspend all activities a “necessary sacrifice” to identify any community members that may have been further spreading the infection. “School sites were reporting so many cases, we couldn’t keep up with contact tracing,” she said. “Contact tracers were getting sick, and the cases just kept rising.”

Now that the district has a better understanding of how many students and staff are infected, Maldonado said, all sporting games can continue with the same COVID-19 precautions, such as masks for all spectators and any athletes not actively playing, and testing any athlete or staff member who is showing COVID-19 symptoms. “We are doing our part to help the community by identifying positive cases,” Maldonado said. 

This next week, Maldonado said, the district will begin the process of testing all absent students and staff members, any person displaying symptoms, and random or group testing to mitigate the chances of another massive spike.

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