One Brewer High School football player has been sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, and four other team members are under quarantine after contact tracing, according to the school’s athletic administrator, Dave Utterback.
The team’s COVID case came to light three days after the Witches participated in a three-team controlled scrimmage at Lewiston against Lewiston and Gorham last Saturday.
“[The team member] started feeling like maybe something was up on Monday night and went and got a test and found out Tuesday morning,” Utterback said.
The Brewer School Department updated its policy to mandatory masking last week in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases and changes to the recommended quarantine procedures. The school committee had initially passed an optional masking plan at an Aug. 2 meeting.
Student-athletes are subject to a quarantine if they are considered a close contact of a COVID-19 positive person and have not been vaccinated. The vaccination rate of students in Brewer Public Schools who are eligible to receive the vaccine is 65-69 percent, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education.
Utterback said the impact of the COVID case on the Brewer football roster was mitigated by steps the team has taken since the outset of preseason practices on Aug. 16, including wearing masks while indoors, limiting time spent inside — including a 10-minute timer in the locker room — and mandatory masking while on the school bus.
A high number of vaccinated kids on the team prevented more players from having to quarantine, Utterback said.
The non-quarantined players on the roster are set to play at Hampden Academy on Friday evening in the team’s final preseason test before Brewer opens its regular-season schedule at home against Bangor on Sept. 3.
“We think we have enough available bodies after the quarantining that our coaches feel like we have enough to play a scrimmage with them,” Utterback said.
Hampden Academy athletic administrator Fred Lower confirmed Thursday morning that the preseason game with Brewer is still on as scheduled, with the opening kickoff set for 7 p.m.
Of the other teams Brewer played in the controlled scrimmage, Lewiston has indicated that it would not play its scheduled preseason game at South Portland on Thursday night.
Lewiston athletic administrator Jason Fuller told the Portland Press Herald that while no one on the team has tested positive for COVID-19, 15 to 20 players were in quarantine and the Blue Devils did not have enough varsity players to compete against South Portland.
Gorham athletic administrator Tim Spear said Thursday that his football team is still scheduled to host Messalonskee of Oakland in a preseason game at 6 p.m. Friday.
Other Maine football programs that have had their preseasons impacted by COVID issues are Marshwood of South Berwick, Noble of North Berwick, Massabesic of Waterboro, Morse of Bath and Winslow. Utterback doesn’t believe these will be isolated cases.
“I think this is going to come up every week,” he said. “As an AD I’m going to hope to get to Tuesday without a phone call from my opponent or hope to not have to make a phone call to my opponent because that’s going to be where we’re at this fall.”