(Update: adding video, info, comments from coaches, athletic directors)
Not just COVID outbreak, but now a shortage of team bus drivers
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The problems are piling up for the athletics programs for Bend-area high schools, specifically for their football teams. After a reported COVID-19 outbreak in the Bend and Mountain View football programs earlier this week, NewsChannel 21 learned of some other concerns coaches and athletic directors share heading into the season.
On Monday, a Bend-La Pine Schools spokesperson told NewsChannel 21 there was "more than one case" of COVID-19 in the Bend and Mountain View High School football programs. District Athletic Director Dave Williams confirmed fully vaccinated players and coaches from both teams can resume optional practice with proof of vaccination.
For Bend High School, that means only 25 of about 70 players in the program can practice right now, according to Lowell Norby, the school's athletic director.
"We basically have the numbers of a 2A or a 3A school right now," he told NewsChannel 21.
Meanwhile, unvaccinated players, and those who are under quarantine, are eligible to return Aug. 24.
However, The Oregon School Activities Association requires nine days of practice prior to first competition. So the Lava Bears and Cougars had to cancel their first JV games of the season, as well as their jamboree for all three levels of the programs, which were both scheduled for the end of next week.
Mountain View Head Coach Brian Crum said, "I know that the virus is prevalent in the community. I know that this delta variant is tougher on kids than other previous versions of COVID. So we're going to do what we can to make sure our kids are as safe as possible, no matter what we're doing."
The first home games for both Bend and Mountain View are "still a go" for Sept. 3, but because of limited practices and canceled tune-ups, coaches and athletic directors have other player safety concerns that go beyond the scope of the pandemic itself.
"We experienced a lot of injuries last year," Norby said. "There's potential for that to happen again."
Lava Bears Head Coach Matt Craven added, "We don't have enough days to really bang their bodies into shape, and then we're going to get thrown into a full-tilt game. Maybe it'll be an issue, maybe it won't. Time will tell."
Playing the games is one thing. Getting to and from the games is a whole other issue in itself, according to Williams.
"The district is having a tough time finding drivers for athletic transportation," he said. "There are not many charter companies in Central Oregon, either, which means transportation is going to be a big hurdle -- and a potentially expensive one."
NewsChannel 21 was told the charter buses are twice to three times as expensive as district buses to drive the same route. Williams said those are extra fees the district will usually be willing to pay, but cancellations are not out of the question.
"That's always in the back of your mind," Williams said. "You have to have to cancel things. Especially like a football game, those kids play once a week. That's a big deal."
As far as guidance goes from OHA, there is no spectator capacity limit at any high school venue. Masks are not required at all for players, coaches and spectators at outdoor sporting events, but masks will be required at indoor events for anyone not actively competing.