Students at the middle and high schools in Colby may have been exposed to the coronavirus disease while attending mandatory meetings for fall sports.


Colby Public Schools Superintendent Katina Brenn said in a statement that one or more people who attended the meetings last week have since tested positive for COVID-19.


Students and other attendees may have been exposed at the middle school volleyball and football meetings on Aug. 6 where they viewed a concussion video, as well as the high school football meeting on Aug. 6, Brenn said in the statement. An online meeting schedule listed the high school football team's date as Aug. 4.


Another athlete meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening will still be held, despite the possible COVID-19 exposure at previous meetings.


"At this time we are asking people to use their best judgement," Colby Public Schools officials wrote on Facebook. "We expect students to physically distant and recommend the use of masks."


The meetings, where athletes view a concussion video, were mandatory for all students who want to participate in fall or winter sports, USD 315 said in a July 31 notice. The viewings were held in the commons room of Colby High School and there was apparently no option for a virtual viewing.


Brenn said the school district was notified by the health department of the positive tests.


"The health department will notify individuals considered to be in close contact with those who have tested positive and provide guidance," Brenn said. "USD 315 is only notified of possible exposure events and is not given any identifying information of those who tested positive or may have been in close contact."


The Thomas County Health Department reported 44 total cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, which is up from 36 on Aug. 6, when the meetings were held. That same day, the health department reported in a Facebook post that there was likely community spread. There are now nine active cases with three patients hospitalized. There have been 35 recoveries and five total hospitalizations. No local patients have died of the coronavirus disease.


Classes start next week for USD 315 students. The district calendar lists Aug. 20 as the first day of school. Teachers start Monday with meetings.


Masks are not required for students at Colby Public Schools after the Thomas County Commission rejected an executive order by Gov. Laura Kelly last month. An opt-in and opt-out form from the district gives parents the choice of requiring their student to wear a mask or banning their student from wearing a mask.


Secretary Lee Norman of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said last week that evidence shows face mask requirements are effective at reducing the spread of the virus.