Star Cross Country Runner Repeatedly Tests Negative; Forced To Quarantine and Miss State Meet
His season over after he got too close to a COVID-positive student
A star cross-country runner in Michigan found his high school season coming to an abrupt end when he was notified that another student in one of his classes tested positive for COVID-19.
Jeremy Williams, a Lapeer High School junior, said he received word from the school principal and athletic director on Oct. 19 that a student who sat within six feet of him in one of his classes had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
As a result, Williams was told, he needed to quarantine for 14 days, which would render him unable to participate in a race scheduled to take place on Oct. 24, prior to a regional tournament. That race qualifies runners and teams for the state tournament.
Williams took a rapid antibody COVID-19 test one day after he spoke with school officials.
The result was negative.
He submitted to nasal swab testing on Oct. 21, and was notified on Oct. 23 that the results of the second test were also negative.
Williams, a 4.25-GPA student who is hoping to receive an athletic scholarship, appealed to the Michigan High School Athletic Association and also launched an online petition, seeking support.
“It makes very little sense that I have already had a negative test, yet I still must quarantine,” Williams wrote on Change.org. “It is absolutely absurd that a student who has tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times will not be allowed to run at an outdoor event.”
“Currently, I have run the 11th-fastest high school 5k time in the state of Michigan,” he added. “This puts me as the 6th-ranked Division 1 runner in Michigan. ... I am projected to qualify for regionals by almost two minutes. Needless to say, there is a lot riding on Saturday’s race.”
According to Geoff Kimmerly, media and content coordinator for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, the association had nothing to do with keeping Williams out of the race.
“There is one important reason this athlete is not allowed to compete today – he is under quarantine by his local health department,” Kimmerly told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “State and local health department mandates take precedence in these situations.”
Lapeer County Health Director Dr. Mark Hamed said he feels badly for all of the students who are having to deal with quarantine restrictions.
“It’s hard,” Hamed acknowledged. “For a kid, they have their dreams and goals. ... If I were them, I would feel exactly the same way.”
Hamed explained that it is not uncommon for asymptomatic people to test negative for COVID-19 for as long as 13 days after exposure. He added that the virus can spread heavily during a two-day window before a positive test.
“It seems excessive. It’s not fair and it does feel harsh,” he said of the 14-day quarantine for close contacts, “but our best tool is prevention. ... We have to follow what we do know works.”
The county’s quarantine protocols were established according to guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hamed said.
“It’s a CDC thing, not a Lapeer County thing,” he added. “Maybe time will tell that it wasn’t fair, maybe it says it was, but we have to do the best we can to take care of our community.”
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.