COVID surge has already caused problems for Upper Valley winter sports schedules

Valley News Staff Writers
Published: 12/25/2021 10:33:02 PM
Modified: 12/25/2021 10:32:35 PM

As the omicron variant has caused COVID-19 cases to surge across the country, Upper Valley sports have felt the impact.

Many games or events involving area teams have been postponed or canceled since the beginning of winter season due to COVID-19 concerns — whether the issues were at the local school or an out-of-the-area opponent.

Lebanon High School shut down its boys basketball program for more than a week following multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the team. The pause was not forced by any governing body — Lebanon took the action on its own in an effort to avoid any further issues.

Days later, Hanover High and Stevens High both canceled their post-Christmas holiday tournaments. Hanover athletic director Megan Sobel said that Lebanon dropping out of the tournament left only one game, and it became logical to cancel.

Sobel said she hasn’t heard anything from the NHIAA regarding any potential state-wide shutdown or pause. She’s hopeful it won’t come to that.

“In terms of where we are right now, we’re fine,” Sobel said of Hanover’s COVID situation. “I think it’s affecting other areas more. Our teams, at this point, haven’t been shut down or anything. But obviously, it’s dependent on what happens, if there’s increase over the holidays or anything else. But right now, we are practicing and playing as normal.”

A number of other Upper Valley schools have canceled or postponed individual games in the last two weeks. Mid Vermont Christian School had a few positive cases on its girls basketball team, leading the Eagles to postpone both the girls and boys games on Dec. 16.

Dec. 22 saw more than 10 games canceled or postponed, with the New Hampshire schools hit particularly hard. Lebanon, Hanover, Mascoma, Newport and Stevens all had games called off that day.

Athletic directors in Vermont also said they haven’t heard from the state about any impending actions. Oxbow High athletic director Derek Cipriano doesn’t think something like that is imminent. Windsor High’s Jim Taft and White River Valley High’s Heidi Wright also said there are no plans to press pause on athletic events.

“I think there’s definitely a hope that we continue, I think from just the benefits that athletics has,” Cipriano said. “And I think we’ve got good systems in place with the school system, once we get back, to at least hopefully continue. The vaccination rates we have on our teams, I think that will help as well. But obviously again, this variant seems to be escaping that, so obviously, it’ll be a wait-and-see approach.”

COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in both states over the last two months, with Vermont seeing a positivity rate of just under 48% over the last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Both states reported record case numbers during the week after Thanksgiving. Just over two-thirds of New Hampshire residents are fully vaccinated, along with more than three-fourths of Vermonters.

The VPA and NHIAA could not be reached for comment for this story.

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com. Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.




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