School maintains COVID-19 confidentiality

Maxine Zuriff

The athletics department, which has allowed students to continue practicing on campus, has not notified families if any athletes have contracted COVID-19, though Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg said he is not aware of any positive cases.

“It is the school’s responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of student and employee personal health information, so we generally do not answer these types of questions,” Engelberg said. “That said, I can tell you that, to date, we are not aware of any COVID cases among athletes who have been on campus.”

In a recent athletics meeting focusing on the boys tennis team’s upcoming schedule, students and parents asked Head of Athletics Terry Barnum how many athletes have been infected with COVID-19 since starting practice at upper school athletic facilities. Barnum said he was unable to disclose the information due to confidentiality concerns.

“All data and information about COVID cases in the Harvard-Westlake community is collected and communicated by the Community Health Office, which works very closely with our Communication Office and Mr. Engelberg,” Barnum said. “It would be inappropriate for me to give any information, including general numbers, to anyone outside of school administration.”

Collin Assil ’22, a junior varsity tennis player who attended the meeting, said he feels uncomfortable participating in the practices when the athletics department isn’t fully transparent about the number of infections within the community. .

“COVID-19 obviously does not affect kids our age as much as it does other immunocompromised demographics [and] groups, but I do find it a little concerning that they are not disclosing if any kids in the program currently have the virus,” Assil said.

Assil, who contracted COVID-19 in June, said he has concerns about the risk athletes have of infecting the larger community, potentially creating a super-spreader event.

“I personally hate quarantine and think it is ruining the country, but I do think people should be aware if they are going to be exposed,” Assil said. “I’ve had COVID-19, and even though I’m not concerned for my life, I’m concerned that if one athlete has it they can pass it on to others.”

Barnum said he does not receive news about whether athletes have contracted COVID-19.

“The Community Health Office is under no obligation to notify me of positive cases, even when it involves an athlete,” Barnum said. “So while I, too, am not aware of any cases involving athletes, I could not say that with any level of certainty because not all positive cases are communicated to me.”

Varsity football player Mark Cho ’22 said he feels it is necessary for the athletics department to be clear with athletes about whether students have gotten COVID-19 for health and safety reason.

“The athletics department should be transparent about these things, especially for the safety of other athletes participating at school right now,” Cho said. “The least they can do is just disclose how many athletes or what team they are a part of if they do indeed have COVID for the safety of the athletes, coaches and staff members currently working or practicing on campus.”

Micheal Lapin ’22, another member of the junior varsity tennis team, said that unlike Assil, he isn’t worried about training on campus.

“Personally, I am not nervous to return to practice in any sense,” Lapin said. “[The school] is doing a great job of preventing COVID-19 on campus and as of now, I haven’t heard of any cases.”

Even with the possible threat of COVID-19 , Lapin said he is still excited to go back to practice.

“Even though we haven’t received clear answers about students-athletes receiving COVID-19, I am excited to get back on the court and start practicing with my team, ” Lapin said.