COVID-19 outbreak reported among football players at Detroit Renaissance

Mark Hicks David Goricki
The Detroit News

A COVID-19 outbreak has been reported among football players at Detroit's Renaissance High School this week, district officials said.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District website listed 10 student cases and 40 in quarantine between Monday and Friday.

Renaissance football coach John Thompkins said 10 players tested positive for the virus.

Renaissance High School.

The team was slated to play River Rouge on Friday, but with the outbreak, River Rouge found a game with Warren DeLaSalle. Renaissance is scheduled to play host to Mumford on Sept. 10, but that game is now also in doubt.

“We’re just following protocol. We’re shutting things down for 14 days, not practicing, had to cancel the game," Thompkins said. "We have to do what’s in the best interest of the kids, have to quarantine, things like that. We’ll see what happens.”

Chrystal Wilson, the district's assistant superintendent of communications, said players were tested and quarantined before staff reported to work this week ahead of the Tuesday school start.

She said since "student attendance does not begin until Tuesday and the outbreak related to the football team occurred before that time, communication related to the outbreak only involved the team, players, and their families. ... Effective Tuesday, any and all positive cases and/or outbreaks will be communicated to all staff and families at any individual school. This was our communication protocol last year."

Wilson said all Renaissance football players have been tested multiple times "and all are quarantining unless they have tested negative and are vaccinated. Those players who are not vaccinated will not attend school until the quarantine period has ended. They will learn through their school’s teachers while at home. We call this 'blended learning' through the quarantine period."

News of the outbreak comes as COVID-19 cases surge in Michigan amid concerns over the more contagious delta variant.

Michigan added 4,448 COVID-19 cases and 51 deaths from the virus on Friday. The figures push the overall totals to 955,640 cases and 20,367 deaths since the virus was first detected in the state in March 2020, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The state's COVID-19 infection numbers have been trending upward for a month.

So far this week, Michigan added 13,962 cases and 136 deaths from the virus.

There were 11 school outbreaks this week, seven in high schools, three in pre-K-elementary and one in administrative, according to the state.

The increase as the new school year starts has prompted officials to mandate masks in schools.

Health departments in Genesee, Kalamazoo, Allegan, Kent, Oakland, Ottawa, Wayne and Washtenaw counties have all issued such orders. 

Last month, the Detroit Public Schools Community District announced students and staff must wear masks this fall regardless of their vaccination status and employees will undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

About 40% of school districts have some mask policy, covering about 57% of students, state officials said.

Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told The Detroit News this week a statewide student masking requirement is still possible depending on the virus cases.

She and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have so far declined to issue such a requirement statewide, although the administration has recommended universal masking in schools.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that anyone living in a county that has "substantial" or "high" COVID-19 transmission wear a mask when they are indoors or even when outdoors if it's not possible to social distance.

This week, the CDC reported every county in Michigan fell in those categories.