Erie Co. allows unvaccinated McQuaid players to play, Buffalo school leaders call the team ‘toxic’

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — In a Buffalo courtroom Tuesday, Erie County allowed unvaccinated McQuaid Jesuit football players who tested negative to play in Tuesday night’s state quarterfinal playoff game.

The game is in Williamsville, Erie County.

Erie County insisted it did not change any of its COVID quarantining guidelines but it said the unvaccinated McQuaid players who tested negative got out of quarantine this morning.

One week ago, a handful of McQuaid players and coaches started testing positive. In court, lawyers said it was nine players and two coaches.

McQuaid canceled practices and started testing.

When unvaccinated players were barred by Erie County from playing Saturday and McQuaid sued over it, the state athletic association postponed the game until Tuesday night.

Tuesday morning, Erie County said positive players are out but unvaccinated players who tested negative are in.

Terry Connors, lawyer for McQuaid Jesuit: "These players in the school have shown remarkable dedication to safety and to COVID protocols."

Jeremy Toth, Erie Co attorney: "It just so happens that based on the information provided by the petitioners, by McQuaid, that that quarantine period ended last night."

McQuaid is playing Bennett High School from Buffalo.

At a news conference after the court hearing, Buffalo school leaders said the decision to delay the game and then allow unvaccinated McQuaid players to play is an injustice.

Dr. Kriner Cash, Superintendent of Buffalo Schools: "It is an issue of privilege and particularly white privilege."

Buffalo School Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman said "If one of our kids comes up with COVID I’m going to blame the toxic team they’re playing tonight."

Terry Connors, lawyer: "Our players on McQuaid have been tested and been found to be free from COVID-19 on five separate occasions."

Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA: "The game will be played this evening as scheduled."

Brean: "Do you have a problem with that?"

Zayas: "We are simply concerned with the precedent this could establish as we move towards our winter sports season and ultimately our spring sports season."

The winner of the game goes onto the state semifinal just north of Syracuse next Saturday.

Part of the issue here is the guidelines for dealing with unvaccinated students in Erie County are different than the guidelines in Monroe County.

In Monroe County, the health department says unvaccinated students can test to stay in school and play sports.

In Erie County, the health department says unvaccinated students can test only to stay in school.

Tom D’Antonio, lawyer for McQuaid Jesuit: "It’s very difficult for a school like McQuaid, or for that matter, for Bennett, or anyone else to try to navigate all these various different approaches as we deal with inter-sectional games and now state competition."

Erie County attorney Jeremy Toth, who represented the Erie County Public Health Department in court, says Monroe County is the only county in New York he knows of that says unvaccinated students can test to play sports.

Toth says New York State doesn’t agree with the interpretation of Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza.

Brean: "Dr. Mendoza would say it’s his prerogative to interpret those guidelines and so that’s the way he’s interpreted it. And I guess if one county is doing it one way in another county is doing it another way we’re going to be back in here in basketball season or lacrosse season?"

Toth: "That’s a fair point. I think the law, if this were ever to be litigated if you’re in Erie County you follow our guidelines. If you’re in Monroe County you follow their guidelines."