On Sept. 1 of 2020, Statesboro High head coach Jeff Kaiser got the news he tested positive for COVID-19. Eight days later Kaiser was hospitalized at Memorial Health in Savannah and was there for 12 agonizing days.
Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of Kaiser’s positive test and a subsequent hospital stay that had him fearing for his life. Since then, numbers began to drop, but over the past month new contractions of the virus have continued to increase causing many nearby schools like Screven County, Liberty County and Wayne County to shut down and have put school systems in a similar situation to where they were last year.
“We are trying our best to push our way through it, but it is affecting kids all over the country,” said Kaiser. “The trouble is there is no consistency to the way folks are handling it. Our previous opponent Wayne County shut schools down today and are having no extracurricular activities. It is just very frustrating trying to decide if you should play or shut down as the health of our students is so important, but there is no protocol written in stone for us all to go by, so you have to err on the side of caution.”
Riding high from their 21-7 win in the Erk Russell Classic against Wayne County, the Blue Devils had their bye week last Friday but had a few more students out after positive tests and Kaiser continues to be concerned as Statesboro is set to play Swainsboro Friday at Womack Field.
“We got some good quality practices in last week, but toward the end of the week we lost a couple more kids that had to quarantine,” said Kaiser. “It continues to be next man up and are going to try and do a better job than we did last year.”
Last season, the Blue Devils played a game with 24 student athletes sitting out because of either a positive COVID test or contact tracing related to a positive test. Kaiser has vowed that something like that will not happen this year.
“Last year we played a couple games we shouldn’t have played,” said Kaiser. “It wasn’t because we didn’t want to play, but because we had to play kids that weren’t prepared to play in a varsity football game. We aren’t doing that this year. We will monitor it closely and if I decide that it is too dangerous to play then we won’t play. Right now we are okay, and we are going to keep pushing forward.”
Kaiser admits having had COVID and being as affected as severely as he was by the lethality of the virus, he has a different prospective on things.
"I understand that on one side you want to push forward and keep things going in the right direction,” said Kaiser. “I have had it about as bad as you can have it and still be around. I don’t mind saying that I am vaccinated as I don’t want to have it again and I admit I am very nervous every time I walk in the building.”
“It is easy to take this thing for granted when you haven’t had it,” said Kaiser. “If you haven’t had it or had a family member go through it, I understand possibly taking it for granted. I am here to tell you it is real, and it is dangerous, so we will do whatever we have to do to keep our kids safe.”
Kaiser did not give a specific number or percentage of players that would have to be out in order to cancel a game and said it was more about the depth they have in different areas and positions that would be the factor.
Statesboro is scheduled to open up its 2021 home schedule Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. when Swaainsboro pays a visit to Womack Field.