New omicron variant is an added defender against winter sports


Brooke Murphy

After girls varsity basketball suffered an outbreak of COVID-19, some players were quarantined while others were on the court.

The omicron variant continues to surge across the nation and disrupt the lives of Americans. As winter break came to an end, West Essex high school hallways were significantly more empty. Around 116 students and staff were either positive or quarantined when we returned, raising questions about what this means for winter sports. New Jersey currently has around 1.5 million cases, reminding us of the beginning COVID-19 outbreaks back in 2020.
School nurse Karen Kinsey says she is working to combat the spread of COVID-19 on sports teams through testing and quarantining.
“If anybody is exposed and they are unvaccinated, they get quarantined,” Kinsey said. “If they’re vaccinated, they have to take a PCR test between day five and day seven after the exposure, as per the New Jersey Department of Health guidelines.”
After facing an outbreak on the team during winter break, girls varsity basketball shut down until further notice. The girls had to cancel their holiday tournament and did not meet until Thursday, Jan. 6, but some players were still quarantining until Jan. 10.
Head Coach Amber Tobia says it was difficult to deal with but they are trying to stay positive for the future.
“It has definitely been a challenge dealing with all of this,” Tobia said. “We are trying to take it day by day and play as many games as we can.”

Along with the girls, boys varsity basketball also had to shut down due to COVID precautions. Their last practice was on Dec. 24, and they didn’t meet again until Jan. 3.
In light of the shutdowns, boys wrestling, hockey, swimming and winter track have avoided outbreaks so far. Though wrestling has avoided shutting down, they did not practice over winter break or participate in their tournament.
Senior captain of the hockey team, Rocco Garcia, says the team has been taking precautions to prevent this from occurring.
“Plenty of teams are getting shut down and we are staying as safe as possible,” Garcia said. “We all wear masks on the bus and the rink requires masks unless we are skating. I think both of these little things are really helping.”
As of this week, all winter sports are officially back. But with over a hundred students and staff out of school, the future of winter sports seems to be unclear.
“Sports is indicative of everything else right now,” Kinsley said. “There is so much COVID it is more of who doesn’t have it as opposed to who has it. We just have to make it through the next couple of weeks.”