State mandate leaves high schools with the bill when it comes to testing

by Chris Renkel & Stephanie Kuzydym, WKRC | Tuesday, August 4th 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKRC) - As the Friday Night Lights draw closer to taking center stage, high school football teams across the country are putting their players to the test as they prepare for the upcoming season. But in the era of COVID-19, tests could be what keeps some high school teams from taking the field when the season officially kicks off.

"Basically the testing makes fall sports a non-starter for us," said Lockland High School Head Athletic Trainer Kim Barber-Foss.

Under the current mandate from the Ohio Department of Health, in order for teams to take the field in a contact sport like football, players, coaches and all game personnel would have to have a negative coronavirus test at least 72 hours before the competition begins.

The average cost of one of these tests is roughly $125.00 per test, which could leave schools on the hook for thousands of dollars per week in testing fees. Add up the cost of a 10-week football season and school districts could be forced to spend millions just to field a team.

"We just do not have the financial and economic resources to support testing that many athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, support staff every week," said Barber-Foss. "At a school like Lockland, we have to supply our resources where it matters most, and that’s with these schools in the classroom and that’s with these educational resources."

On Aug. 1, the state of Ohio mandate that requires testing and prohibits competition between schools was extended. During Gov. Mike DeWine's Tuesday press conference, the governor's office attempted to shed some light on the issue promising a more comprehensive return-to-play plan is in the works.

"There has been some confusion about this in that the renewal of the order somehow represents the plan to play this fall. I want you to know that’s not the case," said Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted. "We’re still working with the Ohio High School Athletic Association to finalize that plan and we’re still considering many options."

But until the state order is lifted, school districts like Lockland are left with uncertainty. And as practices continue, student athletes and coaches could be preparing to play in games their schools simply can't afford.

"So, I think at some point, they need to make a firm decision," said Barber-Foss. "I think it’s very stressful for everybody that’s involved. Kids and support staff."