This is the sports column no one wants to write.
Yet it has to be written.
This is the sports column no one in Connecticut wants to be forced to read.
Yet it must be read.
State high school athletes, particularly the nearly 9,000 who lost their football season in 2020, never want to think about COVID again.
Entering August 2021, no one wants to hear about COVID. Everyone wants to put the virus in the rearview mirror of their lives and carry on with their hopes and dreams and Friday night touchdowns. It’s entirely understandable.
The mention of the word COVID brings exhaustion or anger or both.
More for you
To which there is — can only be — one reply: If you are going to play high school sports this fall, get vaccinated. Today. Tomorrow. Monday at the latest.
That’s a command. That’s a plea. I’m on my knees, begging. Don’t listen to the defiant knuckleheads. Make the safe, scientific play. If not for yourself, for your teammates. The Delta variant is real and it’s more contagious.
COVID ain’t over until Dr. Fauci sings.
Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the CIAC, sounded confident fall sports will proceed uninterrupted. So breathe easier. Just not too easy.
“We certainly learned a lot from the experiences of last year,” Lungarini said. “We do have confidence that we can play sports safely. Through all of our experiences, we did see data we had very low transmission in competition.
“We still have to be very cognizant of activities around sports. We see the uptick in variant cases right now, so we need to be aware of that. But we don’t see this at all hindering us starting fall sports on time with full seasons and championships.”
The CIAC has partnered with the DPH and on Monday Lungarini joined in with Gov. Lamont to encourage those eligible to be vaccinated. The state has set no policy for students who play sports. So at this point it’s up to individual school districts, and Lungarini said he knows of none in the state that currently require the vaccine.
Lamont said Monday that could possibly change before the school year, depending on the evolving COVID numbers in Connecticut. The state’s positivity rate has risen to nearly three percent, highest since early May. On Wednesday, the CDC classified Hartford and New London counties, which both have rates higher than eight percent, with “substantial” community transmission. New Haven County was added Thursday.
“We do believe that the vaccine is the safest way we can have kids in full seasons and full competitions with reducing the risk of transmission,” Lungarini said. “We (the CIAC) haven’t had any conversations about mandating vaccines. Our position at this point is to encourage it.
“One of the pieces, as well, is the interim guidance released by the state department of education and DPH on opening schools that highlighted students who are vaccinated that are in close contact (with COVID) would not lead to quarantine unless they are experiencing symptoms. Those who receive the vaccine have the opportunity for the most complete season.”
The CIAC obviously has more information and more experience dealing with transmission entering this school year than last year. Even before the vaccine, Lungarini said, the 2020 outdoor fall season competition was found to have low transmission rates.
“And through the spring,” Lungarini said, “when we were excited to get back to the state tournaments, we felt we did it in a controlled, safe environment. We were able to have 700 events without one reported student getting COVID or one quarantine of the team.
“That gives us some confidence that the mitigating strategies we put in place did prove to be effective and limited the spread. We were prepared. And we were fortunate.”
What worked best last year for Connecticut high schools?
“Primarily it’s the mitigation of activities around competition,” Lungarini said. “Having kids masked and socially distanced in those team meeting activities, in team transportation, car-pooling, limiting the team pasta parties, having kids spaced out on the bench.”
In other words, intra-team gatherings.
This is important information to have, yet Connecticut’s strong vaccination numbers and overall terrific job battling the disease isn’t an invitation to get sloppy. It certainly isn’t an invitation for any of those still angry about the cancellation of the football season — there are plenty — to somehow twist this into nonsense that the vaccinations are phony or unneeded. You listen to the knuckleheads and we’d still be haunted by polio and American hero Jonas Salk would be an enemy of liberty.
To the angry: Be happy with saying, “We told you the games themselves weren’t that dangerous.”
Remember the Fourth of July celebration when President Biden marked a measure of “independence” from the COVID virus? We were all long past ready to throw down our masks, yell “Huzzah!” and hug everyone in sight. Well, here we are less than a month later, and Biden announced Thursday federal employees will need to confirm they are vaccinated or else face regular testing and be required to wear masks on the job.
According to CNN, 237 million Americans (71 percent) live in counties considered to have “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission. Only 3.2 million live in areas with “low” transmission. In early June, according to CNN, 2.4 percent of the population lived in a county with “high” transmission and 13 percent in areas with “substantial” transmission.
According to Johns Hopkins, there is a 59 percent COVID increase this week over last week. Seven of 10 Americans are now advised by the CDC to go back to wearing masks indoors.
The good news is vaccinations across the nation are the highest in three weeks. Still, 49 percent of the American population is fully vaccinated. In Connecticut, 63 percent are fully vaccinated. Among 16-to-24 year-olds the number drops to 53.29 percent. It’s safe to save half of the 40,000 kids who’ll play fall high school sports in Connecticut aren’t fully vaccinated.
“The population we’d like to see a little bit more in terms of being vaccinated is that younger demographic,” Lungarini said. “If our student-athletes consider that and get the vaccine, it can only help. We also recognize it is a personal decision for families and students and make.”
Yet make no mistake, that personal decision could affect teammates personally. There is no perfect answer. There are still unknowns with the Delta variant and if booster shots will be needed. There are many knowns by this point, too. A positive test could cause a widespread quarantine among the unvaccinated and subsequent cancellations or forfeits. Oops, there goes the season. Maybe college opportunities will be lost. God forbid, some kids get really sick.
Look at the Olympics. Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Katie Lou Samuelson, Bradly Beal, Coco Gauff all out with COVID positives. Two pole vaulters, including America’s world champion Sam Kendricks, tested positive in the Olympic Village, sparking concerns of a wider outbreak. We can’t wish it away.
Get a shot today. Get the second shot in 15 days. Maybe your arm’s sore and you feel a little wonky and miss a preseason workout day. That’s much, much better than half your team being out for big games in October and November.
“We’ve operated from a standpoint we’d be managing our way through the COVID experience for at least another year,” Lungarini said. “Knowing the virus is still relatively new, we have to be prepared to enhance mitigating strategies if necessary.”
Sorry if the column nobody wanted to read bored you to tears. Rather have that, than seeing the tears of cancelled dreams again.
[email protected]; @jeffjacobs123
Please go to GametimeCT.com High School Sports to read full article.