Washington Township High School’s athletic trainers received their first Moderna COVID vaccine on Jan. 11 in advance of sports such as basketball and swimming.
Athletic trainers Dr. Eric Schwartz and Stephanie Mroz Mosiondz were able to receive vaccines under the category of A1 health care professionals. According to Schwartz, trainers see people on a daily basis who may be in contact with the virus.
“(Getting vaccinated) is important from a community health standpoint for us to ensure we are not transmitting the virus, so we can continue to work and provide health care for our patients,” said Schwartz. “From a bigger standpoint, it provides the community a knowledge that we feel the vaccine is safe and a helpful preventative measure from a health and community standpoint.
“At the end of December and the beginning of January, we began to monitor the process, and as we got information, I passed it on to the school district,” he added. “It was kind of a joint effort between the medical staff here at the high school that we made it a priority to make sure we were informed about the vaccine and the rollout.”
The high school had just switched from all-remote learning to a hybrid model on Jan. 11. Despite the difficulties, trainers and coaches met with students on a regular basis to keep them motivated and made sure they were prepared for the season when hybrid learning returned.
“We would communicate with the athletes and coaches through Zoom and work on athletic training and injury prevention,” Schwartz explained. “We would work in a rehabilitation process through Zoom. We were working; it wasn’t a vacation.”
Along with students returning to school, sports teams can now meet for in-person training, games and practice. Before the school moved to all-remote learning, the athletic department put numerous measures in place to keep students and staff safe from COVID.
“Our athletic trainers play a critical role in helping to support a safe and healthy environment in and around our school, Principal Jonathan Strout said in a statement.
“They are in direct contact with our student athletes and coaches daily, and they assist us in so many ways, from identifying student athletes that may be symptomatic or even close contacts to an infected individual off campus to assisting our nurses and administration with contact tracing and so much more.
“We are grateful to have two dedicated athletic trainers that are not only highly skilled in their field, but also compassionate and caring educators for our students.”
Some of the safety precautions include social distancing during games, mask wearing, hand sanitizing and wipes readily available, as well as daily questionnaires for all athletes and coaches. The athletic department has been working with grounds and building managers to ensure the gymnasium is receiving the correct air flow.
“Our ability to communicate and mobilize as a unit really sets us apart,” Schwartz noted. “I am proud of the teamwork that we have done. The kids need it to feel some degree of normalcy … Everyone is anxious and nervous, and if we can minimize those anxieties as a whole, it is really rewarding.”
The athletic trainers are not the only staff members who got the vaccine; school nurses have also been vaccinated under the A1 category.
High school basketball and bowling teams have now started practices, and competitions will begin on Jan 26. Winter track and swimming will start practice on Feb 1, with meets beginning on the 16th. Wrestling, gymnastics and girls volleyball will start practice in March, with matches and meets commencing on March 1.
Spectators will not be allowed in the stands during games, but home games for boys and girls basketball will be livestreamed.