The COVID-19 pandemic has been rapidly changing ever since the first case in the United States was confirmed back on January 22.
Keene State College is one of the many colleges who were forced to think on their feet in the weeks leading up to spring break. The constant changes in the Center for Disease Control recommendations as well as where in the country the virus was affecting made the jobs of those in the athletic department difficult as well.
The men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, softball and baseball teams were all set to travel down to Florida during spring break in order to train and compete against a variety of schools from all over the country.
According to an article on Click Orlando by Adrienne Cutway titled “Timeline: The spread of coronavirus in Florida,” in the week leading up to Keene State College’s spring break (Monday, March 9, to Friday, March 13) Florida declared a state of emergency as their COVID-19 cases began to increase.
On March 11, when there were 31 positive COVID-19 cases in Florida, both the Keene State baseball and softball teams traveled down to Florida to begin their spring break training trips.
“In assessing the guidelines established by the KSC Administration, the Pandemic Response Team and public health officials at the time of March 11determined that this type of travel was permissible based on the circumstances as we understood them at the time,” explained Keene State’s Athletic Director Phil Raciciot in an email interview. “This decision occurred before any real consideration of canceling spring seasons and these games in Florida represented nearly a third of the baseball and softball teams’ entire schedules. Both teams were fully committed to these trips, had full slates of games against other colleges [that were] also making their trips and were scheduled to depart on Thursday, March 12. We put measures into place to monitor health and safety precautions, were assured by the host venues these precautions would be followed, had multiple daily check-ins with coaches and monitored any changes regarding guidelines as well as potential impact on travel plans to return.”
Three days after the baseball and softball teams travelled down to Florida, the Keene State lacrosse teams were supposed to follow. However, their spring break trips ended up being canceled.
“The lacrosse teams… were not scheduled to depart later on Saturday, March 14, and by that time although KSC guidelines remained consistent with previous days, there were definitely more concerns about travel from all parties involved including administrators, coaches, student-athletes and families,” explained Racicot. “We also started to notice a number of changes with lacrosse teams that we were scheduled to play, canceling the games. Each team was scheduled to play two games initially, which were not as impactful on their season as well. At that point with all factors taken into consideration it was determined that it was in the best interest of everyone associated with those programs to cancel the trips.”
On March 14, the day the lacrosse teams were supposed to depart for their spring break trips, Florida had 111 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Junior outfielder on the softball team Cassandra Woods explained in an email interview that “[the softball team] didn’t have a say on whether the team was going but were reassured if [anyone] felt uncomfortable individually [they] didn’t have to go.”
Woods also added that she “personally thought going to Florida was a good idea” and that “there was no harm as no KSC softball member got sick down there.”
Junior pitcher on the baseball team Tyler Fitzgerald shared similar sentiments with Woods, explaining that his team had received an email from Racicot saying that if any athletes felt uncomfortable traveling to Florida they did not have to.
“I felt great about [traveling to Florida],” said Fitzgerald in his email interview. “I was only worried about our guys and winning the games we had down there.”
The baseball team competed in 10 games and the softball team competed in seven before it was determined that both teams would return from Florida early.
“[I was] not really surprised, it was not as bad [in Florida] when we went down there but things got worse as far as the number of cases,” said Fitzgerald when asked about his reaction to being brought back to New Hampshire early. “The AD, President and all involved in the decision made the right call and [I] cannot thank them enough for even letting us go down to begin with, especially seeing how a lot of other teams canceled right away.”
All members of both teams, including coaches, were placed in the CDC and KSC guideline recommended 14-day self-isolation once they returned.
“Most have followed the guidelines to return home during this time,” explained Racicot. “If it was determined on a case-by-case basis that students had family situations where returning home may not be the best option, other arrangements were in place for them. Again, all of these situations were reviewed by the campus Pandemic Response Team. We are very appreciative of the efforts made to keep everyone safe and healthy. These measures were taken out of precaution and responsibility.”
Head Coach Carrah Fisk Hennessey did not respond to the interview request.
Head Coach Ken Howe did not respond to the interview request.
Claire Boughton can be contacted