Orange Coast College recorded 1 suspected coronavirus case out of 291 tests conducted this week, according to the OCC COVID-19 Database.

Student athletes have been testing on site since Jan. 15, the same date they were allowed to return to campus. Last week, six of the seven students who tested positive for COVID-19 were athletes.

Approximately 350 student-athletes are tested twice a week, with every lab kit provided cost-free by the Orange County Public Health Department. 

“There’s been a decline of positive cases here, just like the county and state,” OCC Director of Human Resources Rebecca Morgan said. 

Since student testing began in mid-January, there have been six straight weeks of decline in positive cases at OCC. Trends like this have spurred conversation for the resumption of athletic competition.

“The return to play is directed by higher education guidelines that are put out by the governor’s office,” Morgan said.

With a 1.6% positivity rate among all students tested last week, OCC finds itself in formidable shape to continue the process of recommending competition. 

The 37-page guidelines pamphlet covers easy-fix issues like social distancing, but also demands some tough tasks.

“In order to return to practice and competition, we must have a testing protocol in place,” Morgan said. “We have to test all athletes and all support staff – coaches, trainers and others involved.”

The problem here is that mandating coronavirus testing is outside the state, district and school’s jurisdiction.

“Mandatory testing for staff is a union-negotiated issue,” Morgan said. 

Two out of the three unions in the Coast Community College District (CCCD) have already signed off for the mandatory staff testing, but the third union’s approval is required before any further steps can be taken.

Once all of the CCCD is on board, the chancellor will make the final decision for the entire district going forward.

As uncertain the athletic calendar has been this school year, the recent consistent improvement has raised morale in the district. OCC and its sister schools find themselves one step closer to rebooting athletic competition for the first time since March 2020.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Morgan said.

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