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Solari is Wrong- Let Them Play!


Just like my blogging compatriot Jeff Solari, I too was stunned by the recent decision by the Maine Principals Association to approve at least the start of play for the 2020 Maine high school fall sports season - in particular varsity and sub-varsity football.

But unlike Solari, I am pleasantly surprised and heartened by what I consider a brave, but prudent call by Maine's governing high school sports body.

Yes, we are currently living under a civil state of emergency declared by Governor Janet Mills - a CIVIL state of emergency decreed by a political body, not medical or scientific. Yes, she has presumably solicited the advice and counsel of medical officials before issuing the declaration, but not all scientific and medical experts agree on whether or not suspending athletic seasons or closing schools is a good idea. In fact, there is plenty of disagreement and far from unanimous or even unilateral agreement on the best course of action - much like many still debate the merits as well as effectiveness of wearing facemasks. Some have even posited learned opinions and science-backed reasons to warn that facemasks do more harm than good.

While many schools and school systems are going with two-days-per-week, in-school class schedules for returning students, some systems like Bangor have offered parents a choice of abbreviated weekly class schedules; full, five-day in-school schedules; or total telecommuting, learn-at-home schedules for their children.

And as many parents opt to keep their children home, many are not and many would prefer to have the option to send their children to school, but haven't been given the choice. According to a couple teacher friends of mine, 76 percent of the parents of children attending Hampden schools voted in a recent school system survey to send their kids to school.

States nationwide differ markedly in their school system approaches to the 2020 fall school season. Some are opting for full returns to school with options for concerned parents to keep their children home to learn via computer links, some are going remote-only, and others are offering multiple options like Bangor's model.

Sports-wise, states' approaches to going forward amidst the current Covid 19/Hunan Virus/Coronapocalypse also vary widely. Many grassroots groups made up of student-athlete parents and sports boosters have sprung up in recent weeks to make concerted efforts to show their support for the continuation of fall sports like football, lobby against cancellation or postponement of fall sports seasons, and encourage and discover alternate practices or rules to promote ways to minimize potential exposure and spread of Covid. And despite not having much time to organize, their strong voices are being heard.

Some school systems have decided to move fall sports to spring, some are going full steam ahead with a usual fall schedule, and some are offering limited fall schedules. Some are even considering total cancellations. The latter seems both extreme and overbearing.

One thing all these states have in common is increased preventative measures such as mandatory facemasks, social distancing, regular testing, limited locker room interaction, and even on- and off-field sports rule changes to decrease up close and personal contact.

While no one can fault any of these states for considering and employing novel, creative, and cautionary measures and protocols for dealing with this ongoing pandemic, few seem to admit or keep in mind that the segment of our population which has been shown to be more resistant and the least adversely affected by the Corona virus is our nation's youth, specifically American children ages 18 and younger. Many scientists and doctors have theorized that many students nationwide have already been exposed to the disease, but had such natural immunity or resistance to it, they didn't even realize they had it and simply brushed it aside as a short bout with a cold.

The highest "at-risk" population segment is in the ages 65-over crowd. Those citizens, knowing they're higher risk, can take adequate and prudent precautions. And most of them do not have to worry about exposure to bigger crowds at work or school as many are retired and hardly any are attending full-time classes.

Yet another reason against what this admitted layman, but pragmatic person and practitioner of common (more like uncommon these days) sense considers overreaction and panic in the face of this pandemic is the scientifically postulated and debated theory of "herd immunization," which is the idea that larger groups of people help mute or lessen the ill effects of Corona as the disease is spread out among larger groups in lesser intensity and thereby helps our immune systems - especially those in younger, healthier citizens -- fight off the pandemic more effectively.

Throw in the scientifically documented secondary side-effects of our heavy-handed, isolationist approach to combatting Corona (ie. decreased socialization skills, isolation, lesser learning effectiveness for students, higher depression and suicide rates) and it starts to seem like a case where the cure is almost worse than the disease itself.

And speaking of perceived overreaching or overreaction to this pandemic threat, I'm reminded of one of my grandmother Hamm's many favorite and time-honored sayings: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." I believe that's true, but I also feel like the American approach to dealing with Covid is more like utilizing a kiloton of prevention for a pound of cure, and the returns don't justify the expense.

Besides, when you try to safeguard lives by shutting life (work, church, social gatherings, school, shopping, etc.) down completely, what kind of life are we going to return to once we finally get the "all-clear" signal, assuming we ever do?

Will there be Covid contagion outbreaks and incidents? I'm almost certain there will be. Will they lead to widespread death and destruction? The scientific, percentage, and past history statistical information we have at our disposal points to a resounding NO.

So rather than picking up our balls and staying home, let's play ball.

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