Swabbing unvaccinated athletes for COVID causes more harm than good


Evelyn Wille

Mako Medical employee, Elle Oldaker, prepares to administer nasal swabs to students.

Unvaccinated high school athletes must now submit to weekly PCR tests in order to continue participating in sports.

Along with this, if an athlete misses a testing day, they won’t be allowed to participate until they have been swabbed again the next week. This rule was put in place in order to contain the spread of COVID-19; however, it could ultimately cause more harm than good.

PCR tests examine nose swab samples to detect if there is any trace of COVID-19. PCR tests are often advertised as a fast and accurate way to diagnose someone with COVID, but results are often unreliable.

According to The Cleveland Clinic, the test can continue to detect fragments of SARS-CoV-2 virus even after you’ve recovered from COVID-19 and are no longer contagious.  The potential for athletes having to miss out on two weeks of sports and school because of a false positive is a risk that shouldn’t have to be taken.

Another concern is that PCR swabs are sterilized with a known carcinogen, ethylene oxide (EtO).

According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Short-term exposures to EtO can cause respiratory irritation and lung injury, shortness of breath, headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.”

While most medical equipment in the US  is sterilized with safe amounts of ethylene oxide, there have been no long term studies done to show the effects of week after week intranasal exposure to this chemical.

Lastly, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread and transmit the virus. Though it is more unlikely for a vaccinated person to experience this, it is still possible.

According to John Hopkins, “The new data says that a fully vaccinated person who experiences a breakthrough infection can spread the virus just as much as an unvaccinated person.”

If both groups are susceptible to exposure and transmission, then either both groups should be tested, or neither should be tested.

However, many people feel that this regulation is important and necessary to protect students and their families. Even so, It is important to remember that it is Virginia Beach Public Schools that have put this regulation into place, not the Virginia Department of Health. The regulations of public schools should not be treated the same as regulations from a medical facility. 

In order to improve this rule, there should either be less frequent testing, or no more testing at all. This new regulation might look like a good safety measure on the surface, but it doesn’t actually do anything helpful for containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is important that the VBCPS board repeal this mandate as soon as possible.