Dozens of people have tested positive for COVID-19 in connection with a cluster at a youth cheerleading facility in Weymouth, Massachusetts.
There have been 37 coronavirus cases across 14 cities and towns since Monday, according to the Weymouth Health Department, tied to the Cheer Sport Sharks New England training facility. That number does not include family members or close contacts of participants, according to officials.
Four of the people who tested positive are Weymouth residents, while people in Braintree, Rockland, Randolph, Quincy, Brookline, East Bridgewater, Hingham, Kingston, Marion, Franklin, Whitman, Dedham and Easton have also been impacted, officials said.
The Cheer Sport Sharks New England did not return requests for comment. However, signage displayed at the facility entrance indicates that temperature screenings and hand sanitizing is required and only coaches and athletes are permitted.
Julie Schell, the parent of a cheerleader who attends the facility, said she received an email that the building would be cleaned. The mother said her daughter tested negative Tuesday. Schell said she feels safe sending her child there and supports the safety measures in place.
“Our kids complain to a fault about like, ‘Oh, yeah, they don’t even let us get a mask break, at least we get at school we get a mask break.’" Schell said. "It's nonstop and they’re hustling. They have to have their masks on, no ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Dr. Ali Raja of Massachusetts General Hospital said it's a personal decision for parents to allow their children to participate in sports during the pandemic.
"When kids are competing they're usually staying pretty safe, but what happens before and after - getting together with friends in the locker room or after a competition - that's when we tend to start exposing ourselves and when we all need to be really careful," Raja said.
Raja emphasized that it's not just about what goes on inside the facilities, but also what happens with these groups outside.
"I'm really worried about what's going on with the social scene surrounding athletics," Raja said. "Hanging out in the locker room, the parents hanging out together, that's when we're going to start seeing things spread."
Schell argued that other factors must be contributing to the outbreak, citing the facility's stringent coronavirus safety protocols.
"The gym's not following each athlete around outside of practice and making sure that they're socially distancing from their friends or are doing things they're not supposed to," Schell said.
The number of cases could rise as Weymouth health officials continue with their investigation and contact-tracing efforts. Officials said they are working with businesses owners to ensure the facility is operating in compliance with the state's safety standards.
"Our Nurses will continue to work with everyone involved to ensure all current COVID Quarantine and Isolation requirements are being met to reduce the potential continued spread of the virus," officials said in a statement.