Anchorage high school hockey players will face weekly mandatory COVID-19 testing beginning Monday unless they’re fully vaccinated, the Anchorage School District announced Wednesday.
More than 60 students district-wide have either tested positive or been identified as close contacts to someone who has tested positive in recent weeks, “and most of it can be tied back to state comp hockey tournaments in the Valley,” said Kersten Johnson, the district’s senior director of secondary schools.
“Our goal is to keep schools open, and we also want to keep the sports programs going,” she said. “In hockey in particular, the number of positive cases and close contacts is (higher) than any other sport, and we need to rein that in or we’ll have to shut down classes at the secondary level.”
Most of the 60-plus students in question are close contacts of someone who tested positive, according to ASD spokesman Alan Brown.
“There are a handful of positive cases that created that close-contact network,” Brown said.
The students have either have completed their quarantines or are currently quarantining.
The district could have opted for a two-week shutdown of the hockey season or canceled the season entirely, Johnson said. Instead it decided on weekly PCR tests, which will be performed once a week at rinks prior to a team’s practice.
The school district will pay for the tests.
“Our goal is to keep schools open and keep kids on the ice,” Johnson said.
Multiple state tournaments for comp hockey, or club hockey, were held throughout March, many of them at rinks in the Valley, where there are no mask mandates. Players exposed to the virus at those tournaments returned to Anchorage, where they were in close contact with family members, classmates and high school teammates.
The state tournaments marked the end of the season for most comp teams, although a handful will advance to regional tournaments.
“Most comp teams will take a breather soon, so we’re hoping to get this under control,” Johnson said.
Testing applies to coaches and team managers as well as players. Anyone whose vaccination is fully effective — which occurs two weeks after someone receives their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after receiving the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — is exempt from testing. Anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and has proof of a subsequent negative test is also exempt from testing.
Other Anchorage high school sports have also faced testing or limitations due to COVID-19 this school year. The volleyball season was shut down for two weeks last fall after players from multiple teams had to quarantine. Basketball teams that qualified for last week’s state tournaments underwent mandatory testing prior to the tournament, and wrestlers face once-a-week testing.
The Anchorage School District is hosting three vaccination clinics next week at the ASD Education Center at 5530 E. Northern Lights Blvd.:
• Monday, April 5, 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, April 9, 1:30 to 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, April 10, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Anyone over 16 is eligible for a free vaccination and should sign up for an appointment in advance.