High school fall sports are on track to proceed as planned! Girls golf practice begins this Friday (July 31) with other sports starting on Monday (Aug. 3)! Have fun and good luck to all participants! #IHSAA #INitTogether
— IHSAA (@IHSAA1) July 29, 2020
When that tweet was sent by the IHSAA, Indiana high school athletes and parents were thrilled because Indiana is a step closer to playing sports this fall.
Others are incensed that any state agency would endanger the lives of participants and those close to them by allowing them to play contact sports like football. “Look at how the number of positive tests has increased over the last six weeks!” they say. “This is irresponsible!”
Instead, let’s look at three other sets of numbers as they exist today, according to the Indiana COVID-19 Data Report as released by the Indiana State Department of Health:
To the left is the ICU bed usage graph. It shows the percentage of ICU beds being used by COVID-19 patients in blue. The gray area shows the percentage of non-COVID patients. Green represents empty ICU beds. This shows that Indiana ICU beds are plentiful and that COVID patients are using 12.5% of the available beds.
This graph shows hospital admissions by day from the beginning of the outbreak through today. The number bobbles up and down a little, but the overall trend is down since the peak
The third graph shows the positive test rate as a daily percentage. Yesterday’s rate was 6.9% – a tad higher than the low that Indiana hit in mid-June, but much lower than 20%+ that was reached during the first month of the outbreak
None of this is shared to portray the pandemic as over or our environment safe. It isn’t safe. Nothing is 100% safe. But it may temper fears that we remain in the throes of a pandemic run amok. I am not an epidemiologist, but these graphs tell the story of a flattened curve in a way the total number of positive tests do not.
Combining this information with the understanding that 14-18 year-olds are likely much safer on the field, court, or course than in malls, pools, streets, and friends’ basements might explain the IHSAA’s position as prudent rather than irresponsible.
Significant lessons learned during high school come from participation in extracurricular activities, and pulling the plug unless it is absolutely necessary won’t only strip participants of the activities, but the lessons too. It would diminish their high school experience, and also what they will apply from it as adults.
Again, no one is advocating a disregard of safety standards that help prevent the spread and flatten the curve. Athletes, coaches, staff, referees, and spectators (if any are allowed) should practice social distancing, wash hands, limit travel, and wear masks where possible.
If individual school corporations want to shut down athletics, drama, marching band, and other activities because of a concern for local safety, that is their right and obligation. In areas where COVID is not seen as an immediate threat to health and life, the opportunity to play should still exist for the good of the students.
Why would the IHSAA issue a statewide ban or delay of high school sports when the decision can be better made locally?
Good for the ISHAA getting it right.