(Update: adding videos, information, comments from coaches, sporting directors)

Not just a COVID outbreak but now a lack of team bus drivers

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Problems are mounting for high school athletics programs in the Bend area, especially their soccer teams. Following a reported COVID-19 outbreak on Bend and Mountain View’s soccer programs earlier this week, NewsChannel 21 learned of several other concerns that coaches and sporting directors share earlier in the season.

On Monday, a spokesman for Bend-La Pine Schools told NewsChannel 21 that there had been “more than one case” of COVID-19 in Bend and Mountain View High School’s football programs. District Sporting Director Dave Williams confirmed that fully vaccinated players and coaches from both teams with proof of vaccination can resume optional training.

For Bend High School, that means only 25 out of about 70 players in the program can currently train, according to Lowell Norby, the school’s sports director.

“Right now we basically have the numbers of a 2A or 3A school,” he told NewsChannel 21.

Meanwhile, unvaccinated players and those in quarantine can return on August 24th.

However, the Oregon School Activities Association requires nine days of practice before the first competition. The Lava Bears and Cougars had to cancel their first JV games of the season, as well as their jamboree for all three levels of the programs, both of which were scheduled for the end of next week.

Brian Crum, Mountain View’s Head Coach, said, “I know the virus is widespread in the community. I know this Delta variant is tougher for children than other previous versions of COVID our children are as safe as possible no matter what we do. “

The first home games for both Bend and Mountain View are “still underway” for Sept. 3, but due to limited exercise and canceled votes, coaches and sporting directors have other player safety concerns beyond the scope of the pandemic itself.

“We suffered a lot of injuries last year,” said Norby. “There’s a chance that will happen again.”

Lava Bears head coach Matt Craven added, “We don’t have enough days to really get their bodies in shape and then we won’t be thrown into a full-tilt game. The time will tell.”

Playing the games is one thing. The way to and from the games is a completely different topic, according to Williams.

“The district is having a hard time finding drivers for sports transportation,” he said. “Central Oregon doesn’t have many charter companies either, which means transportation will be a major hurdle – and potentially expensive.”

NewsChannel 21 was told that the charter buses for the same route are twice to three times as expensive as district buses. Williams said these are additional fees the district is usually willing to pay, but cancellations aren’t out of the question.

“That’s always in the back of your mind,” said Williams. “You have to cancel things. Especially like a soccer game, these kids play once a week. It’s a big deal.”

As far as OHA guidance goes, there is no audience limit at any high school venue. There is absolutely no mask requirement for players, coaches and spectators at outdoor sports events, but for all those who do not actively participate in competitions at indoor events.