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Redondo Union guard Jayden Winfrey faces off against a Peninsula defender in a January 2019 game. (Photo by Gil Castro)

The Redondo High boys basketball program has been placed on “indefinite suspension” by Los Angeles County health officials after a coronavirus outbreak amid the team, a stark reminder that despite improving metrics statewide, the pandemic remains a threat.

The outbreak has hit both the varsity and junior varsity teams, with 22 people, including one coach, testing positive for the virus since the beginning of the month, according to an email the school’s administration sent to parents this week. The county’s Department of Public Health confirmed the outbreak, saying officials opened an investigation on April 12. The program has had to cancel seven games so far, including some league matches, though Redondo will try to reschedule them.

The Public Health department is working with the school administration to “conduct contact tracing, implement isolation and quarantine and any additional precautions,” a spokeswoman for the agency said. The department will ensure all “identified cases are in isolation and their identified close contacts have been instructed to quarantine.”

Barbara Ferrer, the county’s Public Health director, revealed earlier this week that there were five current COVID-19 outbreaks at Los Angeles County schools, three in Santa Clarita, and once each in Redondo Beach and Agoura Hills.

 

The outbreaks, Ferrer said, “all are associated with participation in youth sports, not attending instruction at school.”

Redondo’s principal, Jens Brandt, confirmed that the school was one of those with an outbreak. Other Redondo athletic programs have had positive tests, he said, but none as widespread as the basketball program.

The school has had 27 positive cases among student-athletes, including at least one that forced the baseball team to quarantine, this week’s email to parents said.

Parents of junior varsity basketball players learned of a positive case on that team April 1, the email said. A day later, a varsity player was confirmed to be positive. The last positive test, the email said, was April 17

Basketball practices for all levels were canceled on April 9, the last day of the weeklong spring break.

The outbreak also came amid a phased in, hybrid return to in-person learning.

Seniors returned to campus before spring break and those in grades 9 to 11 began in-person learning April 13. Starting next week, students will be on campus for four days a week and cohorts will be combined.

It does not appear as if the outbreak has affected learning or most athletic programs at Redondo.

The girls basketball team, for example, played on Tuesday, April 20, defeating Palos Verdes in a Bay League game.

The baseball team, meanwhile, last played on April 14. But because the coronavirus wasn’t widespread among those players, they get to go back on the field on Tuesday, April 27, Brandt said.

The boys basketball team, though, was hit hard.

Like the girls program, the boys were set to start the crucial Bay League season this week.

It’s unclear when or if the missed games will get rescheduled – or when the team can get back on the court.

The Department of Public Health will determine the team’s reinstatement date.

But prior to the outbreak, the team had been following all protocols for indoor practices and competitions, officials said, including testing for the virus, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, capping capacity at 10% and keeping the gym’s doors open.

Still, the outbreak poses yet another challenge for the team – which, like students nationwide, has endured online learning and gone without extracurricular activities. Basketball, in particular, is typically a winter sport, so in most years, Redondo’s season would be done by now.

“With the pandemic as a whole, it has been difficult on the kids, first taking away their interaction with their classmates and in this case, teammates,” said Pete Davis, who has a son in the basketball program. “Being a student-athlete, it has been tough on my son being that he is in class of 2021 and it was projected to be a breakthrough year for him and his teammates.”

Davis, however, did note a silver lining.

“I do think they will come out of this stronger,” he said, “and it will build character.”

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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