COVID-19 vaccine mandated for some high school athletes; Will more districts adopt policy?

COVID-19 News and Information
YONKERS, Westchester County (WABC) -- Mask mandates are in place at schools across the Tri-State Area, but vaccines are a different story.

Many districts, including New York City, are requiring teachers and staff to be fully vaccinated, but there is no requirement for students -- unless you are an athlete.

In Yonkers, student athletes must be vaccinated to play, but it's unclear if more districts will take that approach.

Football players are gearing up for the season opener on Saturday, but this year's preparations included one extra step -- every athlete and coach must be vaccinated against COVID, period.

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Superintendent Edwin Quezada says he's comfortable with the mandate since data shows the vaccine is safe.

"It is also clear that they're going to be in very close contact with each other," he said. "And I need to protect them."

Yonkers has over 500 student athletes throughout its schools, and most football players had already been vaccinated in part because of the impact last season -- when two games of an already shortened season were wiped out because of COVID.

"The positive thing about this policy is that if a kid is vaccinated and we do get a case on the team, they're not immediately sent into a quarantine situation like last season," head coach Anthony Fava said.

New York City has implemented a similar mandate for 20,000 student athletes in high risk sports like volleyball and wrestling.

In Yonkers, Quadir Holmes is a center and defensive tackle, which means face to face contact on every play.

"Before football, my parents weren't really comfortable," he said. "But then, when we started talking about it, seeing as how it was a close contact sport, they were like, 'Yeah, it's OK, I really feel like you should get it.'"

Being able to safely field a team is a plus, no doubt, but coaches says there's an advantage that extends off the field.

"A lot of these kids are living with grandma and grandpa, and we know that that population is more affected than anybody," Fava said. "And the fact that they have the vaccine and we can protect not only them but the people at home is very important."

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The players, for the most part, are on board as well.

"I believe that everybody should get it," football player Kristian Crawford said. "Because it's not saying you're immune, but it's giving you an extra mask that you don't have to wear."

Athletes have until September 27 to get their first dose.

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