The Desert Ridge High School football program has been shut down out of an abundance of caution due to COVID-19, Gilbert Public Schools confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
Dawn Antestenis, the district’s director of marketing and communications, wrote in an email Tuesday the program will be “closed for a short time, to promote the health and safety of students and staff.”
“Gilbert Public Schools continues to follow the Maricopa County Department of Health guidelines with regard to notifying employees and student families of positive COVID-19 cases, including notices of potential exposure and requests to quarantine,” Antestenis added. “We have extensive procedures and protocols in place to ensure people are informed in a timely manner and provided as much information as we are legally able to share.”
The district would not confirm the total number of positive COVID-19 cases within the Desert Ridge program.
According to the COVID-19 dashboard on Gilbert Public Schools’ website, as of Oct. 14 Desert Ridge had three confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. The dashboard updates every Wednesday.
Sources close to Desert Ridge’s football program said there were at least three COVID-19 cases involving players and/or staff. Arizona Interscholastic Association guidelines say three or more cases within a program of 75 or more players warrants a shutdown of activities.
Additionally, anyone considered to have been within 6 feet for 10 minutes or longer with someone who tested positive for the virus must self-isolate out of precaution.
As a result of Desert Ridge’s shutdown, the Jaguars’ game on Friday, Oct. 23, against Red Mountain has been canceled. The main Twitter account for Red Mountain’s athletics program said it was in the process of looking for an opponent on the freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels to fill the now open spot.
Emails requesting comment about the possible impact on Higley's game against Chandler this week have not been answered. The Knights played Desert Ridge on Friday, Oct. 16.
Desert Ridge is the latest school to be shut down out of precaution as it related to the ongoing pandemic.
Arete Prep in Gilbert was forced to cancel its scrimmage and first game of the season on Oct. 2 due to a player testing positive. Gilbert Christian was also forced to cancel a game because of a positive test.
Cactus Shadows and Chaparral football programs were forced to quarantine for two weeks at the beginning of October due to positive cases within the programs. Both Combs and San Tan Foothills high schools were shut down by Pima County officials due to outbreaks at both schools and Combs’ game with Mingus High in Cottonwood last Friday was canceled.
Antestenis said Gilbert Public Schools continues to take all preventative measures to mitigate the spread of the virus on campuses.
“A wide range of preventative measures are in place on our campuses,” Antestenis said. “Our staff are fully trained on best practices, and we continue to communicate actions we can all take to minimize the spread of COVID-19, to our entire GPS community.”
Last Thursday, newly updated metrics posted by the county health department showed that all Gilbert ZIP codes remained in the moderate category for virus spread.
Two of the three benchmarks – for positive new test results and percentage of hospital visits with COVID-19 symptoms – remained in the minimal spread category while cases per 100,000 people were in the moderate category.
Most Gilbert ZIP codes showed between 30 and 40 cases per 100,000 except for 85295, where cases were twice that number.