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Welcome to COVID-19-era workouts: N95 masks, no-touch thermometer, outdoor weight room

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VIDEO | 00:36
Harvard-Westlake athletes work out under strict conditions

In the COVID-19 era, temperature checks, masks and outdoor weight rooms are the norm.

There were strange scenes at Harvard-Westlake’s football field on Tuesday afternoon. N95 masks were worn by every coach and administrator. The head football coach greeted each player by pointing a no-touch thermometer at their foreheads and checking their smartphones to see if they had a green code on a safety app. Players sat six feet apart near the track waiting for conditioning to begin, and there was a huge outdoor tented area with weights and socially distanced lifting stations.

“It’s crazy,” receiver Chase Harleston said. “Everything is crazy. When we shut down in March, I never expected this at all. I thought it would be a quick thing.”

Schools in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties are slowly beginning to allow athletes to resume on-campus conditioning in Phase 1 of strict COVID-19 safety guidelines as specified by state and local health directives while under the supervision of coaches and administrators.

Harvard-Westlake officials, like many of their school counterparts, are taking their jobs seriously by trying to create their own safety bubble. Online classes began Monday, the same day voluntary workouts were offered. They know if they aren’t successful, sports won’t happen. More than 400 parents and students took part in a Zoom call outlining protocols.

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Harvard-Westlake students have to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire online before working out. Athletic directors receive an alert via their phone if an answer raises an alarm about health. They are also coming up with innovative ways to practice.

“It’s great to be back out here,” Harleston said. “We’ve been doing stuff here and there on our own, but it’s nice to work out every day as a team. We have a great protocol and process to make sure everyone is safe.”

To prevent possible contamination, Terry Barnum, the head of athletics, is requiring athletes who also participate in private competitions to spend five days away from Harvard-Westlake activities during Phase 1. A football player who participated in a seven-on-seven competition can’t work out this week with his teammates. Girls volleyball and girls soccer players aren’t holding workouts because they have club activities underway.

Barnum knows some private organizations have not followed the requirements of physical distancing when they hold competitions. Passing competitions violate the current safety requirement of only two people practicing together with the same ball.

High schools are following the strict guidelines in the hope things will get better before the official start of practices in December for football, water polo and volleyball.

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Next week, the Harvard-Westlake basketball team will begin workouts by borrowing some portable baskets from the middle school and putting them up in the parking lot. Baseball team members will be able to lift weights in the tented facility. Water polo players and swimmers have begun using the pool. Cross-country athletes were running around the track on Tuesday.

“You have to adapt,” Harleston said. “We’re all in this together making the best of a tough situation.”

When Harvard-Westlake eventually resumes classes on campus, every student is expected to be tested for COVID-19.


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