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Football parents in medical fields trusting colleges to care for sons


Scott Wright, The Oklahoman
Published 6:12 p.m. ET Sept. 6, 2020

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Desirae Ford sees the worst of the worst of COVID-19.

A nurse practitioner at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, her unit cares for patients for whom a ventilator can no longer help. Her patients are on ECMO machines, which removes the patient’s blood, oxygenates it, and puts it back in the body.

Ford helps care for these patients on a daily basis, and has been for months.

Three months ago, she sent her son — Oklahoma State sophomore defensive end Trace Ford — back to Stillwater when football players were allowed to report.

Desirae rated her concern for Trace heading back to Stillwater as a five on a one-to-10 scale. That’s significant, considering what a 10 must look like from her perspective.

“I had faith that OSU was taking all the necessary safety precautions,” Desirae said.

Oklahoma State safety Kolby Harvell-Peel’s mother, Katie Harvell, works in labor and delivery at a hospital in College Station, Texas. While her unit doesn’t face COVID-19 at the same level, Katie had similar concerns but also confidence that OSU would take care of her child.

The college football season trudges on with the COVID-19 pandemic constantly looming, and parents like Desirae Ford and Katie Harvell who see it face-to-face on a regular basis are counting on colleges to provide proper safety precautions for the players.

“I think OSU is doing a good job of following protocol,” Katie said. “It can be hard as things change based on new information, but they are doing their best. Keeping the boys in small groups helps control the spread, should they have someone test positive.”

The virus is unpredictable, as the Ford family learned in mid-July, when Trace tested positive, despite following all his mother’s and OSU’s safety suggestions. Desirae believes Trace was most likely infected while he was home in Edmond in early July, rather than while he was with the team in Stillwater.

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OSU hasn’t released the numbers of football players who tested positive since arriving to campus in June, though they published the total number of athletes to test positive in that timeframe, which was 77.

When the rest of the student body returned to campus in August, tension grew for football parents.

“I was more concerned for all the students and players,” Desirae said. “Trace is doing all his classes virtually. Also, since he already went through the awfulness of COVID, he’s now being extra-careful.”

With proper reminders, of course.

“My mom tells me to wash my hands every 30 minutes, so she’s obviously concerned about it,” Trace said recently. “But I already had it. She knows I’m safe. I live alone. She knows I social distance. She knows I want to play. She’s not concerned for me, because she knows I’m taking the right precautions to stay safe.”

Some of Katie’s fears are lessened because Kolby is the type who prefers to be at home.

“I think if Kolby was more of an out-and-about, social butterfly-type kiddo, I would be more stressed,” Katie said. “But he tends to stick pretty close to home. He is either at practice or school, at home working on his music or he is with his girlfriend. It can still be worrisome, just because this virus is so random.”

The risks of football in the pandemic are a mixed bag of known and unknown, frightening and in-your-face. But parents who live in the midst of COVID-19 with their gloves and masks and face shields have found comfort in what OSU is doing to protect their sons.

“I understand there is always a risk, simply because we are studying this virus as we live with it,” Katie said. “I also trust that OSU is going to do everything in their power to keep these boys safe.”

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