County mandates full COVID vaccination for spring, winter athletes by Nov. 15

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Photo by Rizel Serrano

The girls’ varsity soccer team wraps up a late night practice. Athletes are not required to wear masks outdoors.

On Sept. 9, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all athletes ages 12 and up participating in spring and winter sports. Students must submit proof of vaccination during registration through ParentVUE by Nov. 15. Medical exemptions will be granted. The decision comes amid rising COVID numbers and large numbers of students quarantining due to strict county contact tracing policies. 

MCPS Athletics Department said that vaccines are necessary for keeping sports safe both in and out of the classroom, especially for indoor athletics. “In addition to protecting individuals and teams, vaccinations minimize interruptions to in-person learning and program activities,” MCPS Athletics Department said in a statement.

I don’t think teens care about COVID. [Girl’s] varsity soccer has not taken it seriously. They share water with each other and wear each other’s clothing items as well.”

— Ayla Khorsand

Athletes in outdoor sports have not been required to wear masks during practices or games, leading to a significantly higher chance of transmission, especially in close contact sports. “I don’t think teens care about COVID. [Girl’s] varsity soccer has not taken it seriously. They share water with each other and wear each other’s clothing items as well,” senior Ayla Khorsand said. 

Whether athletes have taken protocols seriously or not, COVID remains a danger, especially to older adults and the immunocompromised. Students with grandparents at home or high risk family members are put at a higher risk by students refusing to be vaccinated. “I think that COVID is a very concerning matter and that everyone should be cautious and aware of the effects that it may have on others if people are not following guidelines set into place,” junior Ellie Stasko said.

COVID vaccines for teachers have been mandated since Oct. 29, and teachers recently qualified for a third booster shot. Almost 90% of eligible Montgomery County residents are fully vaccinated and over 95% have received at least one shot, as of Sept. 10. 

Given the large percentage of students already vaccinated, the mandate will likely not greatly affect player numbers but a portion of athletes remain unvaccinated. “As far as I know most of the athletes are vaccinated. I don’t think there would be much resistance, if any at all, if there was a vaccine mandate,” senior Aidan Caesar said. 

If students remain unvaccinated they will have to choose between continuing their winter or spring sport or getting vaccinated, a decision most athletes have already made. “I don’t think athletes will be dropping their sport because as an athlete this is my passion. I would never give up something I’m passionate about,” Khorsand said. 

Indoor winter sports, like basketball, will require masks for players and spectators in addition to vaccinations. “Even though it’s hard to play with a mask on, I think that a lot of athletes, including myself, still want to continue to play and be safe during their seasons,” Stasko said. 

Uncertainty surrounding the vaccine is another concern of unvaccinated students. Even with the county mandate, there remains hesitancy in both parents and athletes to get vaccinated. “Honestly I don’t think the vaccine is very beneficial. But the doctors say the vaccine helps but I don’t think so at all. But thankfully we are all healthy and can perform well,” Khorsand said.