Cheers erupt from the stands, smells of burgers fill the air, and lights perched high above peer down on the turf field full of maroon and white. For years, these have been the staple of the fall season at ELHS.
But this year, it’s only crickets that occupy the turf on Friday nights. Lights are off, the vendor closed, and only the sound of silence fills the empty bleachers.
The virus known as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has wreaked havoc on EL, especially within the athletic community. Athletes and coaches have had to reschedule weeks worth of practices and games in addition to following the various extra precautions and rules.
“We have been putting on bug spray and making sure to get off the fields early enough,” said Ethan Moore, a sophomore soccer player at ELHS. Moore, along with other soccer players, has felt challenged with the new rules pertaining to the virus.
With a fatality rate of about 30 percent, it’s clear that EEE is no laughing matter. It has already taken the lives of two CT residents. Symptoms include headaches, high fevers, chills, and nausea. The virus can also leave victims with serious brain dysfunctions such as seizures.
Therefore, students and faculty have taken personal precautions to ensure their safety.
“It’s important to limit time outside around dusk and dawn and to cover up what you can cover-up,” said Samuel Harfenist, cross country coach. Coaching a team that often runs through wooded areas, EEE heavily impacts how cross country can practice and compete.
“[The athletic department was] instructed by the superintendent that all after-school activities we are associated with must follow the rule to be off the fields by a minimum of one hour before sunset,” said Steve Hargis, the athletic director at ELHS.
The precautions mentioned, while necessary, aren’t easy to follow. Mr. Hargis said the curfew will most likely be withdrawn after a few consecutive frosts. This may not be until mid to the end of October.
“We practice early in the day and our meets are being pushed forwards. So we are losing time that could be spent in class because we have to leave school earlier,” said junior Cian Mansfield, a cross country runner at ELHS.
Nevertheless, the ELHS athletic community is doing its best to cope with the difficulties of the outbreak.
“It’s been hard, but I’m proud of the way people have handled it by being very cordial and very cooperative,’’ said Mr. Hargis. “I’m proud to be associated with the people that work so hard to work together, not only in this school but in the ECC to make this happen.”