Highland and Bountiful football game canceled after player tests positive for COVID-19

On opening weekend for Utah prep football, coronavirus concerns are already causing trouble

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Students hang a welcome back banner when students returned to Highland High School in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Months later, the COVID-19 pandemic is still causing issues. The Rams' first football game of the 2021 season has been canceled after a student tested positive for the virus.

The 2021 Utah high school football season has its first cancellation due to COVID-19.

Friday’s game between Bountiful and Highland was canceled after one of Highland’s players tested positive for the virus, Rams coach Kautai Olevao told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Yándary Chatwin, the spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City School District, said the Highland player showed symptoms on Wednesday and received a positive test Thursday. She added that the county health department protocols is conducting contact tracing to determine how many other players were exposed and may need to quarantine. Chatwin said that, according to current county health department protocols, a vaccinated person may not have to quarantine if exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Less than half of the teenaged students in the school district have been vaccinated.

“We know, just from health department data, that only 42% of teenagers in our school district have been vaccinated,” Chatwin said.

She added that while the school district doesn’t yet have the final numbers from the health department’s contact tracing efforts, “we don’t anticipate having enough to play” based on the district’s percentage of vaccinated teenagers.

Olevao said the entire team is looking to get tested to see if it’s still possible to play Friday, or push the game back to Saturday. But until then, the game is considered to be canceled. Olevao said the team’s priority is the health and safety of his players.

This is the first cancellation in the 2021 high school football season due to COVID-19. Coronavirus cases in Utah have risen in recent months due to the Delta variant, and the current seven-day average of new cases is 844 per day, per the Utah Department of Health.

Cancelations caused by positive tests were a common occurrence last year. A season-opening game between Weber and Bingham was canceled. During one week, six different games were canceled.

That summer, coaches were concerned that the season wouldn’t start on time because players or staff kept testing positive at various programs.