NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – You’ve probably seen the billboards along Interstate-95 with messages encouraging student-athletes to stay in the game and get their COVID shot.
The players at Bowen Field in New Haven are ready to have a more normal season after COVID sidelined them in 2020. The pandemic forced football teams to the bench.
“It was pretty bad because no one could do anything. I don’t like wearing a mask at all,” said Ralphael Hawkins, a senior at Hillhouse High School.
That’s part of the reason why these Hillhouse players got the COVID vaccine.
“It was like a flu shot. It was normal,” Hawkins said.
“If anyone on the team were to catch it, we would have to be quarantined and all of that, so just to avoid all of that, I think everyone on the team should get vaccinated,” said Keyandre Smith, a senior at Hillhouse High School.
Hillhouse High School’s Reggie Lytle is more than just their football coach. Some even call him Uncle Reggie.
“I don’t want to pressure on the kids or parents, but I do my best to try and encourage them,” Lytle said.
New Haven’s Health Department is a fan of his effort. Thanks to some federal grant money, this message is loud and clear along state highways.
“What we do know is that the anti-vaccinators are really loud, are really vocal on different outlets, and we want to be able to combat that message and really push forward, so we can win this battle,” said Maritza Bond, New Haven Health Director.
Director of New Haven Health Department Martiza Bond says the slowest group to get vaccinated is kids aged 12 to 15.
“It’s been approved by the American Pediatric Association, so I urge parents, you have pediatric expertise recommending the vaccine,” Bond said. “When there’s an age-eligible vaccine for you take advantage of it and protect your child.”
Right now, 60 percent of this team is armed with the vaccine and soon the quarterback says he plans to get the shot and boost that number.
Lytle was also quick to point out that he treats his players like his kids and says above all else, keeping his team healthy is his top priority this season.