* From comments today (links added)…
When asked by a reporter what positivity level he needed to see to reinstate fall sports (football) the Governor said that positivity rate was not a factor. But yet, when he was asked why other states can participate in sports he constantly brings up the positivity rates of other states in relation to our own. If positivity rate is not a factor, then what is the deciding factor of when such activities will be deemed safe?
* So, I posed the question to the governor’s office…
The governor has always said his decisions are guided by science and experts, as this will be no different.
Dr. Michael Lin addressed this issue at length in today’s update.
Dr. Lin is an infectious disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center who studies how diseases spread.
* From Dr. Lin’s comments today…
I’ve seen firsthand the suffering such diseases can bring and I take care of patients who have had the misfortune of developing life threatening COVID-19 illness. I’m also a lucky father of two kids, ages eight and 11 who love to play sports. This topic is deeply personal to me.
The governor has asked me to comment about the science behind why high school football and other youth contact sports should be postponed this fall. Here’s what the science tells us.
COVID-19 is a deadly illness that spreads from person to person through close contact. Contact team sports such as football and hockey can become super spreading events very easily. Just one youth athlete showing up with the virus can start a chain reaction of spread that can quickly threaten an entire team. While the virus continues to circulate widely in our communities, there’s no practical way to prevent outbreaks from happening in sports such as football, with all the contact that’s inherent in the sport. This is not just theoretical. We’ve seen COVID-19 outbreaks in college and professional sports teams that have much more prevention resources at their disposal.
While contact sport itself provides an easy way on the field for the virus to spread, it is also incredibly important to remember that there are many off the field activities that are associated with contact sports, such as athletes using locker rooms, working out in gyms, and traveling together that provide a perfect storm of conditions to enable the virus to spread quickly. We’re all in this fight to help the spread of the virus and prevention steps such as postponing contact sports, as hard as it may be seeming on our children, will reduce infections and save lives. With every youth athlete, there’s a parent, or maybe a sibling, or a grandparent who may be at risk for terrible outcomes from COVID-19 disease. Youth sports do not operate in a vacuum and if COVID-19 spreads among our young athletes, it becomes a risk for our entire community. […]
I’ll close by saying what I told my son, who was really looking forward to playing contact sports this school year. Each of the things that we do to prevent COVID-19 and others, some small like putting on a face mask, others more significant like changing how we play and how we work, is an act of love and sacrifice to our fellow human beings. And this pandemic will not last forever. At some point with better medical advances, particularly with our hope for effective vaccines, this pandemic will end. But the time to relax is not now, especially as we head into the fall and winter season with so many lives at risk.
* The first question for the governor today was about what Dr. Lin had just said…
Reporter: With no disrespect to Dr. Lin, I understand his point. But you could also have a different position, just like any trial would have an expert who would disagree with him. If these other states and perhaps Minnesota on Monday, all are saying it’s okay to play high school sports, what did they know that you don’t know?
Pritzker: Thank you for asking the question. And I would I would start out by saying is that you could probably find an expert to take a position any which direction that you want. That is true. But I also would say that Dr. Lin is not alone. Indeed, he is among the vast majority of infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, scientists, etc. who are deeply concerned particularly about contact sports, where there is an exchange of sweat, saliva, other things that are going on on the field on a regular basis, not to mention that there’s very little protection once they’re in the locker room. In a typical locker room there’s not that much social distancing as you know. There are concerns about that in addition to the field play. There are obviously other sports that have locker rooms, but I’m just suggesting to you that all of the precautions that are being taken by professional sports, and now by college sports are not available to people who play high school or junior high school sports. And I think the doctors have essentially said, ‘Look, we want to get there as fast as we can. But now is not the time, especially as we’re entering the flu season, especially as we’re entering a season where I think everybody is deeply concerned about a second wave hitting the United States.’
* Here’s more from Pritzker a bit later after WIND’s Amy Jacobson told the governor “You’re hurting our children”…
I know that there are many, many parents and kids who would like to be out on the field. And I want them to be out on the field. And as you’ve seen, sports have been categorized not by me by experts about whether they’re high risk, medium risk or low risk. And I’m simply following the science that’s been provided.
Now, I understand there are other states that have made different decisions. That’s one of the tragedies of not having a national strategy here, or being led by a president or CDC that you could trust, that’s providing some direction for everybody. But what I can tell you is that one of the reasons that Illinois has the lowest positivity rate among all of our neighboring states is because we’ve been very careful, because we’ve listened to the scientists. We have some of the best scientists and doctors in the entire country in the state of Illinois. I have been relying upon that, not to mention Dr. Fauci and others. And these are very difficult decisions, and they are emotional decisions even for me. And all I can say to you is that as the information reveals itself, as the scientists come forward with new information - I just want to remind you all that at the very beginning, the CDC said, ‘Well, if you can’t wear an N95 mask, don’t bother wearing a mask.’ That was something they said at the very beginning. We obviously have all discovered that sciences change. We have studies now that show that even the cloth mask that you have on now is a benefit to everybody if we would all wear one, or a surgical mask as you’re wearing, Craig.
So this is evolving, there’s no doubt about it. And there have been changes. And there was not an understanding over the summer, that when we would allow people to go to sports camps, or join their leagues of the summer, there was not an understanding at the beginning of what the transmission might be that occurs. But the fact is that all over the world, youth sports have proven to be very problematic. And that I think, is why, and I’m not making a political judgment about that. I’m just reading, as I think all of you can about what other countries what other states what other. I understand everybody can make a choice here. There’s no doubt about it. And I and Illinois is making a choice here. We’re making a choice based upon the science, that there are some sports that are less risky than others, and we’re allowing those.
* Pritzker was then asked if he understood “the mixed message of today” with the Big 10 announcement that football will soon return…
When you’re talking about Big 10, and you’re talking about professional sports, much different than high school sports. It just is, because of the amount of testing because, of the amount of the doctors that are available, because of the focus on testing for myocarditis. That’s something that the Big 10 has said that they will do in kids who contract coronavirus. That’s not something that’s happening at the high school level. And so we really need to just pay attention here to the different levels. It’s not football here is same as football over there. If you could put a bubble around each one of these teams, for example, at high schools, and you could provide athe same kinds of services. Perhaps high schools could do that. But look, I’m making decisions for an entire state. We have 855 school districts in the state of Illinois and we have individual schools within those school districts. More than 4000 total schools and, you know, these decisions are they’re difficult to make. But it’s important that I keep in mind anyway how we can best keep our are kids safe and healthy.
Please excuse all transcription errors.
* The Question: Should Illinois allow high school football teams to play this fall? And if so, under what restrictions? And if not, why?