Proximity monitors for high school athletes? New covid countermeasure


Jon Manley

The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Eatonville High School is requiring some student-athletes and coaches to wear tracking monitors during practices. The monitors are intended to be a way to contract trace in the event of a positive COVID-19 case, to measure players’ proximity to others during practices and how long they were near them.

In the event there’s a positive COVID-19 case, coaches and administrators will have instant data on which players would potentially need to quarantine.

The monitors are being used for high contact and moderate indoor contact sports. Moderate contact indoor sports include volleyball, while high contact sports include basketball and wrestling. Football and soccer, though outdoor, are also considered high-contact sports.

The Eatonville School District said in a statement that all the participants of those sports are wearing the monitors, regardless of their vaccination status, contrary to rumors that were swirling around social media Tuesday.

“We received grant funding (known as ESSER III) that specifically included provisions to support higher-risk athletic programs, and we used some of those funds to pay for athletic proximity monitors,” the statement reads. “We are using these monitors for high contact and moderate indoor contact sports. The monitors are for both staff (coaches) and students on the field, regardless if they are vaccinated or unvaccinated. If a student or coach tests positive, we will have immediate information regarding athletes’ and coaches’ contacts, so we can more tightly determine who might need to quarantine.”

Tracking monitors currently are being used in professional and college sports in the U.S. After Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel tested positive for COVID-19 after joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ESPN reported that every coach, player and staff member in the NFL is required to wear a contract tracing chip.

The monitors are only worn during practice at Eatonville, and are left on campus at the conclusion of practice.

“The proximity monitor contains radio-based sensors that track distance between individuals wearing the device, as well as length of time spent in proximity to one another,” the Eatonville School District website says. “The monitor is only worn during participation in the sport.”

The Eatonville School District said parents were informed with an invitation to a parent meeting, communication from the coach of their sport and a parent consent form.

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