School Sports Under Covid 19

The body in charge of school sports (ISSA) has announced through its president that it will continue the preparation for school sports until the Government advises it differently. ISSA...

The body in charge of school sports (ISSA) has announced through its president that it will continue the preparation for school sports until the Government advises it differently. ISSA has also mentioned that it has “reached out” to the parents of the children who may be involved in school sports in order to give them a voice in the decision to return to school and sports.

I think that it is time that “we” begin to look at the facts regarding a pandemic that is decimating the populations of countries worldwide. Ever since the world woke up to the fact that an infection with the coronavirus could result in life-threatening consequences there has been a three-fold attack. (1) Treatment, (2) vaccinating us against contracting the disease, and (3) preventing spread. Treatment has not been going so well. The original concept of withholding steroids, using ventilators instead of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) ways of getting oxygen into the lungs of infected individuals with poor oxygen saturation has been undergoing change at an interesting rate as our knowledge of the effects of how the virus attacks the human body improves.

The production of an effective vaccine seems to be months away from. Preventing spread IS now the way to contain and possibly halt the relentless spread of this infection, of which every medical expert agrees should be our number one priority.

Wearing a mask to reduce droplet spread, staying away from crowds and practicing personal hygiene (hand washing/ sanitizing) must be a new way of life. What is not being prioritized is the ways in which those who have the virus can be identified, isolated and treated.

This is markedly complicated by the fact that there are asymptomatic carriers of the virus, who have absolutely no idea that they are ill and are spreading the virus. The ONLY way to identify everyone with the virus is to do testing, which is an unpleasant, technical method of getting viral rna/dna from the buccal or nasal cavity of all of us. At present, temperature checks and hand sanitizing whenever you enter establishments that provide the essentials of modern living is a good start. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has only recently announced that private labs will soon have the capability of giving citizens the possibility of getting a test on request. The cost: estimated to be in excess of J$20,000! Because of the economic cost of reagents, training and hiring trained personnel to do the test, and utilizing over a 24 hour time period the machines now available to DO the test, our testing protocol is woefully inadequate. Our leaders are trying desperately to make tests available to as many citizens as possible while considerably reducing the time when a result is available.

So, the opening of schools where ALL the preventing protocols are in place — mask wearing, social distancing, enhanced hygiene and a marked reduction in class size — seems to be reality in September/October this year. At the same time, bars are open, cinemas are opening, parties are getting larger and those who are supposed to be in quarantine, having been allowed into the country after our borders were opened, and who are NOT obeying protocols, will only add to the (inevitable) possibility of increased spread, increased positives along with the difficulty in contact tracing those who were lucky enough to be tested and have their results in a 48 to 72 hour turnaround time.

Why, therefore, complicate a difficult and possibly necessary attempt at a return to a “new” normal by advocating school sports. Why? What is so wrong with postponing the return to competitive sports as many countries and sporting organizations have done? Those sports that have returned have introduced no-spectator rules with severe economic consequences, “bubble” isolation for participants and exclusion from participating ANYONE who tests positive before or during the competition. Is this what school sports this year will look like?

School sports need to be postponed at least until the summer of 2021 when, hopefully, the world, and Jamaica will have a much greater understanding of the virus, its treatment, and containment. “Tek it easy. Tek time” must be the mantra of those responsible for the care and health of the nation’s children.

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