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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Schools are preparing to welcome students back to classes in a matter of weeks. This year, again, a spike in COVID-19 cases hangs over schools and what the academic year will end up resembling.

We do know that the goal is to keep students and staff as safe as possible, while offering in-person learning. Districts are still working to determine exactly what that looks like for everyone involved.

We also know that fall sports will go on as scheduled. The Kansas State High School Activities Association Sports Medicine Advisory Committee met last week. Representatives on that committee said it’s going to take everyone, from coaches to parents, involved to make the fall season a success.

“Sports is heading forward, we are going to have fall youth sports. Are we going to be able to keep it going? I sure hope so, if we all work together, we will keep it going, we proved that last year with fall sports,” said Dr. David Smith, member of the Kansas State High School Activities Association Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

Smith is also a sports medicine physician at the The University of Kansas Health System. He shared some of his concerns about the upcoming season during a COVID-19 update with the University of Kansas Health Tuesday morning.

One of the largest issues Smith sees is that while about 40% of Kansans are fully vaccinated, only 20% to 30% of children and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 have been vaccinated.

“My concern is probably greater that whether you’re vaccinated or not and you’re going back to youth sports, what happens if you become ill? Well what should happen is you should stay home and report that illness and go through the proper channels to have it evaluated,” Smith said.

While that’s what the CDC and other health experts said is the process that needs to happen to prevent, or at least limit the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, Smith said that’s not what always happens.

“I’m hearing stories about parents and children, they don’t want to take them to the doctor because they just don’t want to know because they don’t want to be that index case that shuts down a team, and I find that really disheartening,” Smith said.

As a doctor, Smith said he recommends the COVID-19 vaccine because it’s safe. But he doesn’t want you to necessarily take his word for it. Talk to your pediatrician when your teenager goes in for a sports physical. He said it needs to be a team approach going forward so everyone can win against COVID-19.

“This is a team of young people that want to get back out on the field. So how can we do that, have a team strategy, no different than your coach sets up a strategy for winning a game. We want to win this game,” Smith said. “We’ve got to work together as a team and that’s that’s brutal honesty, really, and then working through with your healthcare professionals on the appropriate testing and treatment.”

Health experts are asking coaches to have the vaccination conversation with members of their teams, and to have a plan about what happens if a teammate tests positive.

“Nobody’s mandating vaccination to get back on the sports field,” Smith said. “Again, we’re strongly advising that as an Advisory Committee.”

While Smith and other health experts across the metro say vaccinations aren’t mandatory, they say they are the best way to protect everyone.

If you want to get a vaccine, you can simply text your zip code to GETVAX (438829) to get information about the closest place to get a vaccination. The option is also available in Spanish by texting a zip code to VACUNA (822862).

In seconds, you’ll have several locations to get a vaccine, which vaccine is available, and information about making an appointment, or if you can simply walk-in for a shot.