Unalakleet Basketball Game Cancelled After Confusion Over Positive COVID-19 Case

Boy basketball player reaching for ball. Fans in the stands in background.

Nome-Beltz High School was prepared to host a basketball game against Unalakleet last Friday, but after learning of a positive COVID-19 case in the village, the Bering Strait School District (BSSD) decided to cancel the games.

On Friday, NPS announced in a social media post that the game against Unalakleet had been cancelled “due to a confirmed COVID case within the school at Unalakleet during the student’s infectious period.”

However, KNOM spoke with Bering Strait School District (BSSD) Superintendent Dr. Bobby Bolen who clarified that no student had actually tested positive for COVID-19.

“It did turn out, unfortunately, that that was a clerical error, and only one person tested positive, not a student, and they weren’t in Unalakleet, so we only had one instead of three. But at that point, we had already cancelled games. So, unfortunately, we had to do our games locally in Unalakleet, teams played there. We’re gonna try to reschedule when we can with Nome Public Schools.”

– Superintendent Dr. Bobby Bolen

Initially, it was thought that three Unalakleet residents had tested positive for COVID-19; it turns out only one resident actually tested positive for COVID-19 in Anchorage, but the district was unsure of who they had been in contact with prior to leaving the village.

Superintendent Bolen said the Unalakleet school’s operational status remained “GREEN” over the weekend as the district spoke with Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) and planned to test residents.

As a result of this community-wide testing, another positive case was detected in the village, and the school has since moved to “RED” status.

Despite this hiccup over the weekend, Superintendent Bolen is still confident in the district’s policy for student activity-related travel.

“We’ve done well, like I said we’ve had two weekends of travel and no positive cases as a result, so we’re happy and satisfied with our mitigation plan and our procedures and safety precautions that we’ve put in place.”

– Superintendent Dr. Bobby Bolen

Back in Nome, NBHS Activities Director Pat Callahan is gearing up for a full weekend of Nanook basketball games against Kotzebue, as well as the rescheduled games against Unalakleet.

“The girls are going to Kotzebue for games Friday and Saturday, and then they’re flying direct from Kotzebue to Unalakleet for games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. It’s very rare to play games on a Sunday. The last time we did an ASAA event on a Sunday was a wrestling regional tournament at some point in the last 10 years. And so the boys are home with Kotzebue and Unalakleet.”

– Pat Callahan

According to Callahan, there will be the standard round of COVID-19 testing done this Thursday, which includes testing both the home team, the traveling team, and verifying negative test results before any games are played.

For the full schedule of games being played at Nome-Beltz this weekend and to watch the games live, visit the Nome-Beltz Student Activities social media page.

Image at top: UNK Boys Basketball Player (2020). Lisa Haugen of Unalakleet, used with permission. (2020).