Andrew Cabassa is happy to be back on the field at Truman High School in the Bronx.
“Being back on the field, it’s been a big accomplishment to us. We get to be able to be with our teammates, be able to have interaction again," the rising junior said.
A few yards away from where he and his teammate ran drills, the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 was being offered to student athletes. So far, Andrew has not been vaccinated.
“I got tested for the antibodies, I do have the antibodies. So I've never needed to get the shot," he said.
But as the first full Public School Athletics League season since the start of the pandemic gets underway, there is one thing that would change his mind.
“If it comes to it where football is on the line I have to get vaccinated, then I believe I would get vaccinated just because I need to stay with my teammates," he said.
So far, the city has declined to make vaccines mandatory for student athletes, or any students in public schools. Still, when asked about students like Andrew, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi didn’t rule out the possibility of a sports vaccine mandate in the future.
“I think all measures could be taken under consideration. It’s important, you know, in that student’s example, to make sure that he’s had the right conversations, to get the questions answered," he said.
Students were able to get some answers right at football practice: they got a chance to ask questions of not just Dr. Chokshi, but also Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter and federal Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
“One of the things that we’re finding across the country is that, places where they have vaccinations, high schools, they’re more likely to stay in, have learning uninterrupted, and that means you can be on the field," Cardona told students.
Many students at practice say they’ve already been vaccinated ahead of the new season. While the education department isn’t requiring vaccines, some received a mandate from a higher authority.
“My parents," Delwyn De Lossantos said. "She was like, ‘If you're not getting the vaccine, you're not playing — that simple.’ So I got the vaccine, happy to be with my team, and ready for the season.”