by GEOFF FOX
Last Thursday morning, Hancock Little League was notified a parent of two players from the minor and major leagues had tested positive for COVID-19 forcing the closure of the fields at Kirkwood Park to be closed by Mayor Ralph Salvagno and Hancock Little League President Brandon Utermoehlen.
Fields have since been reopened.
Utermoehlen said once told of the parent’s positive test, he contacted the two teams affected and suspended their team based gatherings pending further investigation.
That evening, Utermoehlen arranged a meeting with all team managers of both the minor and major league teams and informed them of the situation and gathered more information from tem to add to what had already been gathered throughout the day to determine if there had been any other potential exposures in other areas of the league.
“At the time we isolated the case to just one game that occurred at Clear Spring Little League on Wednesday, July 1,” Utermoehlen said in an email.
The league verified through multiple sources the parent had not had any contact with any other members of the league.
After discussions with the Health Department, no risk for further transmission was present to anyone else in the league.
Utermoehlen said after much discussion and input from all divisions of play, he decided to suspend the entire league over the holiday weekend to give parents time to process the information made public on the league’s social media page and ask questions.
“The bathrooms and other common public areas were cleaned and disinfected during this time as well,” Utermoehlen said.
He noted the league was made aware of a few individuals who were going to have their children tested just as a precautionary measure. Results have yet to be received and the league is fielding calls from many parents throughout the league.
As of Monday morning, Utermoehlen said he had been notified no one else had received a positive test result and no one is symptomatic at this time.
“The parent that tested positive along with his family are currently on a 14 day quarantine and I am in constant communication with them,” Utermoehlen said.
The league is currently moving to require any known person or persons within the league that travels to a beach or hot sport area either get tested before they return to the field and/or quarantine fro 14 days before return.
“Furthermore we reinforced to the managers the importance to continue to use hand sanitizer and disinfectant during and after all team gatherings,” he said.
Managers were told to use those items like they’re a bottomless barrel and if the league gets low, they’ll refill and get more.
To date, Utermoehlen said the league has spent about $600 on disinfectant chemicals and intend to purchase more when needed.
“It is an unexpected expense for the season but it is a necessary one and well will not cut corners,” he said.
Utermoehlen said the town has been “great” and Salvagno has been “fantastic to work with during this.”
The two spoke Thursday evening and discussed everything at hand with Utermoehlen explaining the league was taking the situation seriously and have action plans in place to contain such a situation when they occur.
Although they aren’t foolproof, they help when utilized swiftly, he added.
After speaking to the spouse of the parent who tested positive, Utermoehlen said he wants everyone to know this is virus is simply a virus and is not a cause to outcast anyone or for someone to judge another if they contracted it.
“I told the family that they are our family and that we support them 100 percent and if they need anything at all to let me or other members know,” Utermoehlen said. “At a time when the country appears divided we need to be strong together.”
Utermoehlen said he hopes everyone learns from this situation and informs the league or leagues of any concern or known exposure as the season success is relying on parents being open and honest.
One thing Hancock Little League has that some other leagues don’t is the spacing of fields.
Gerber Field, which is used for softball, is three miles away from Kirkwood Park. The junior senior league fields are below the rest of the fields at Kirkwood. The major and minor league fields are beside each other at the top.
“This is certainly a factor when deciding to shut down or what to shut down,” Utermoehlen said.