Coronavirus Safety on Sports

Every so often, a story is published that just sounds crazy. Somebody throws a birthday party for their cat, and subsequently, at least a dozen people test positive for COVID-19. In America, pretty close to half the K-12 students are in virtual-only schooling. Minnesota hospitals are taking in patients from four adjacent states. Every day brings some new wrinkle to which we must then adjust.

How about this one? In Los Angeles County, California, for the sake of air quality, normally only a certain number of cremations are allowed in any given time period. But the rule had to be abandoned. In hospitals, funeral homes and crematoria, the bodies of pandemic casualties tend to pile up. When the authorities run out of refrigerated trucks, those furnaces need to fire up.

A lot of belief systems still include the tenet that young people do not catch the virus. But 19-year-old Isaiah Mays (Evansville, ID) and 18-year-old community volunteer Wilber Portillo (Denver) died of COVID-19, to name just two recent casualties. Some young victims played sports, others did not.

In the drive to end childhood obesity, the pandemic is not helping one bit. For everyone’s sake, kids need to move around and burn off both physical and emotional energy. At the same time, virus-wise, most of the activities they do for exercise involve a hazardous amount of proximity to other people.

How to run school sports

If the reader can only spare two minutes, a video about best practices can fill in a lot of blanks.

The Centers for Disease Control kicked off February with the publication of voluminous information and advice for the administrators of youth sports. We summarize here a small sample of points not already mentioned. For example, coaches might need to make philosophical adaptations, and have the players work on individual skills, more than teamwork, for the time being. To directly quote from the massive and impressive paper,

Coaches may also put players into small groups (cohorts) that remain together and work through stations, rather than switching groups or mixing groups. Minimize equipment sharing, and clean and disinfect shared equipment between use by different people to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The CDC suggests that parents “or other household members” are obligated to hang around and make sure their kids observe distancing and keep their masks on; thus bringing more people into the contagion/exposure pools. At the same time, schools should “limit any nonessential visitors, spectators, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations.” It is possible that determining who gets in and who does not, who may attend, and who must attend, could involve strenuous discussion and possibly even litigation.

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