Updated with more information at 3:25 p.m. on Aug. 20, 2021.
An outbreak of COVID-19 at Heritage High School this week has resulted in the suspension of athletic competition through Aug. 27, which includes football games against Catoosa County rivals Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold.
Heritage and Heritage Middle School have also returned to virtual learning in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Catoosa County Superintendent of Schools Denia Reese posted a statement on the school's website late Thursday after 44 students tested positive for the virus in less than a week.
"I am monitoring the spread of COVID in every school and in the district all day every day," Reese said in the statement. "This week, we have seen a high number of positive cases at Heritage High School, which led to the mitigation strategy to close the school. HHS will not participate in any athletic competitions from Friday, August 20 through Friday, August 27. We will attempt to reschedule any games that will be missed."
Heritage football coach E.K. Slaughter also released a statement to the Times Free Press in which he offered his perspective on the situation and encouragement to his disappointed players. The statement read:
"The greatest illusion in life is our notion of control. This rings true more now than ever. My heart hurts for our players and coaches who will miss the opportunity to compete in the greatest sport in the world tonight. They have put more work into preparing for this moment than most people can even imagine. I am hurt, mad, frustrated, and all those things. We would play in the Wal-Mart parking lot at midnight if that's what it took to get the game in.
"All that said I am not deterred and neither are the men in our program. We still have a great opportunity tonight, tomorrow, and every day of our lives. This opportunity is to grow and BE the person we were created to BE. You see we have become human doers instead of human beings. When the things we do are taken away from us we tend to lose our identity in WHO we are.
"We still have incredible opportunities. We have the opportunity to grow, train, mature, encourage, learn, rest, lead, love, serve, and much more right now. Nothing can take that away from us. At our core that is who we are. We were created to exist in loving relationship with each other. We would be wise to remember this and focus ALL our energy and thoughts on the one thing we can control – who we are. News flash, we don't get to make the decision to open or close schools. We don't get to control worldwide pandemics. We don't get to control who our favorite NFL team drafts. We don't get to control anything but ourselves. When we lose this control we are losing our very lives.
"Go have a great day today. Take a deep breath. Look at the mountains. Go for a walk, even if it is raining. Love someone you are close to. Read a book. Get better physically, mentally, or spiritually today. Take advantage of the time you have today because you don't get it back. Be a human BEING today and be grateful while you are BEING it."
This is a developing story. Stay with the Times Free Press for updates.