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TSSAA names Dobyns-Bennett winner after positive COVID-19 test on McMinn County team

A McMinn County HS player tested positive the day before playoff game canceled, health department said.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. — UPDATE

The TSSAA has decided to advance Dobyns-Bennett to the quarterfinals after an investigation into a player with a positive COVID-19 test, the organization announced on Monday.

In a letter to both school principals, the TSSAA said it attempted to find a way that the game between the two schools could be played on Tuesday Nov. 17.

"After consultation with state health officials, we asked that McMinn County High School provide verification from the McMinn County Health Department attesting that the school has adequately performed the necessary contact tracing and ensured that any player other than the student in question with whom he had close contact in the 48 hours before he reported to practice ill on November 10 is quarantined and will not be participating in a game if played on November 17," TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said in the letter. 

The TSSAA did not receive the needed verification from the McMinn County Health Department.

According to the letter, on Tuesday Nov. 10, the player was ill at practice and was sent home and had not been around any other players since that time, according to the McMinn County football coach. The student was tested for COVID-19 on Nov. 12 and was informed of a positive result. 

On Nov. 13, according to the letter, he was examined by his physician, who found that he had no stigmata consistent with COVID-19 and that his O2 saturation was 98 with no fever.

"On this basis, the physician concluded that the student’s positive COVID test result on November 12 might be a false positive," Childress said.

The TSSAA COVID-19 Sports Regulations require that, “[a]ny student or staff who has been in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or longer) of a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 must quarantine at home for a period of 14 days from their last exposure to that individual.” The McMinn County High School Reported Case Protocol requires contact tracing for any individual either 48 hours prior to symptom onset if symptomatic or 48 hours prior to test date if asymptomatic.

In statement, McMinn County head coach Bo Cagle said, "“I hate this for our kids and community. The rules and protocols in McMinn county being used for exposure and quarantining all year for this situation were totally bypassed. New rules were evidently put into place for this situation and we have no idea why. I guess sports are a microcosm of life and it’s not fair. The kids and our community are deeply saddened by the way all of this unfolded.”  

ORIGINAL STORY

A positive coronavirus case on the McMinn County football team led the Tennessee Department of Health and Sullivan County Health Department to call off a playoff game with Dobyns-Bennett Friday, the regional medical director said. 

Dr. Stephen May said Monday the state health department notified him before kickoff in Kingsport that a McMinn County player had tested positive Thursday and that proper contact tracing had not yet been completed. The player had previously practiced with the team and his contacts should have been in quarantine, May said. 

To continue to play, May said, would "risk potential exposure to the Dobyns-Bennett team." 

"My job is to protect Sullivan County residents," he said. "It was imperative that we act to prevent further exposure or a COVID cluster at Dobyns-Bennett."

The game was cancelled shortly after 7:30 p.m. over McMinn County's objections. On Monday night, the TSSAA announced Dobyns-Bennett will continue in the playoff tournament, McMinn County's season is over. 

On Twitter, McMinn County Football said the positive player did not travel on the team bus and was not at the game to play, but indicated he was in the stands.

It is not clear why a person who tested positive for the coronavirus the day before was in the crowd at the Friday night game, which was held 150 miles from McMinn County. TSSAA guidelines prevent COVID-19 positive individuals from attending games. 

Also on Twitter, the McMinn Football team indicated the player had a second, negative test and an "authorized letter."

May said the second test was an antibody test. The website for the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates antibody tests should not be used to diagnose current infection, except when a viral test is delayed. 

"An antibody test may not show if you have a current COVID-19 infection because it can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies," the website reads. 

Both teams were on the field warming up Friday but were instructed to leave the field before 6:30 p.m. About an hour later the game was officially canceled.

A McMinn football coach did not answer some of WBIR's questions Monday.