Despite Big Ten overthrow, Pritzker says youth sports in Illinois will remain on hold | Chicago News

Video: Northwestern Medical emergency physician and athletic doctor Dr George Chiampas and Loyola Academy football head coach and former NFL linebacker John Holecek talk about playing sports amid the pandemic.

On the same day, the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten universities voted to resume football and other fall sportsGov. JB Pritzker said Illinois elementary and high school teams would not see a return to the game just yet.

Citing a lack of widespread safety protocols and limited COVID-19 testing capacity, the governor on Wednesday doubled down on his position that it is not yet safe for young athletes to start playing football or other sports. fall.

“Under no circumstances will I put children and their families at risk,” said Pritzker. “To those who claim that putting your child at risk is a matter of personal choice, I say: this is a pandemic. It is a terrible and unprecedented moment in our country. Living together in a free society means that neighbors protect each other so that we can all enjoy freedom and security. “

But Pritzker was shunned by parents and athletes calling for the return of youth sports this fall.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr Ngozi Ezike said athletics can amplify the spread of the disease as players are in closer contact for longer periods of time with several other players and coaches. , both on the pitch and inside the locker room.

And Michael Lin, infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, said contact team sports like football and hockey can very easily become mass-market events, starting with a single positive case. .

“With every young athlete, there is a parent or maybe a sibling or grandparent who may be at risk for the dire consequences of COVID-19 disease,” he said. “Youth sports don’t work in a vacuum and if COVID-19 spreads among our young athletes, it becomes a risk for our entire community. “

The IDPH on Wednesday reported 1,941 new cases of COVID-19 and 35 additional deaths, bringing the statewide totals to 266,151 and 8,367, respectively.

Each state bordering Illinois would have cleared football in high school this fall. The Illinois High School Association is currently considering playing his high school football season in the spring.

The Big Ten Conference about-face came just five weeks after those same presidents and chancellors voted to postpone the next football season. One of the main drivers of this reversal has been the emergence of rapid response daily COVID-19 tests.

But Pritzker and Ezike noted that many elementary and high schools do not have the same resources as universities and professional sports leagues to provide athletes with these daily tests or to isolate them from the general public like the NBA and NHL’s. have with their respective bubbles. .

“No one wants the kids to sit on the sidelines, no one wants the kids not to be in school,” Ezike said. “Everyone wants the same end point and we’re just trying to get there in the safest way possible.”

In the Big Ten, team positivity rates and population positivity rate cutoffs will be used to determine whether teams should stop training or play. If an athlete is diagnosed with COVID-19, they should wait 21 days after a positive diagnosis, undergo a cardiac evaluation and receive authorization from a cardiologist designated by the university before being allowed to resume competition.

Even with these precautions in place, Lin said epidemics have always happened.

Ezike said things like lower positivity rates and less spread of COVID-19 in the community could eventually lead to a return to the game. But she didn’t give specific benchmarks that these data points need. reach before youth sports can resume.

More information is also needed, she said, on the effects of the disease on children and adolescents, especially with regard to myocarditis – a type of heart inflammation that can be caused by COVID – 19.

“As we get all of this information and try to identify ways to treat or prevent some of these serious complications, as we see what positivity thresholds might sufficiently reduce the risk of playing sports, the built-in at risk, we’re going to put all that information together and use what’s going on in other contexts as well to try to make the most informed decisions, ”she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | [email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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