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CHRIS MOORE — Coronavirus spread should give UIL pause

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise across the country, the University Scholastic League should reconsider the role extracurricular activities play in schools for the near future.

Several Texas hospitals are near capacity for ICU beds, requiring people to travel further distances to be admitted.

The Texas Tribune reported the state distributed just under half of the COVID-19 vaccines it has received.

Two weeks ago, coronavirus patients accounted for more than 15 percent of patients in Jefferson County hospitals, forcing the businesses in the county to roll back to 50 percent capacity.

Multiple schools across the region have dealt with the spread among its teams. In the fall, the Nederland football team had to quarantine after several players tested positive. Most recently, The Port Neches-Groves High School basketball team had to quarantine after a player tested positive. Earlier this week a second player who was in close contact with the positive player was also infected.

For many students, extracurricular activities provide more discipline, stability and structure. For a few, it is a chance to showcase their talents in the hopes of receiving college scholarships. They often are a rallying point for the community, even in times where the community literally coming together might not be what we need.

While the sporting events haven’t been the focus of much spread in the area, spread among players is not as uncommon and them bringing it home to spread is likely as well.

Thankfully, the student athletes who have tested positive have not suffered serious, long-term effects or have had any reported extended hospital stays like Ryquell Armstead of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who was hospitalized twice and experienced significant respiratory issues. The 23-year-old running back missed most of the season due to the complications.

Armstead is not the only athlete to experience some of the more serious symptoms of the virus. Jamie Stephens Jr., a player at California University of Pennsylvania, died from a blood clot after he contracted COVID-19.

I use those examples, not to say that those athletes caught the virus while participating in their sports but to show that being young and in good physical condition does not make one immune to some of the devastation of the virus.

I realize several students would lose chances for one more season of their sport(s) of choice, but doing anything to slow the spread should be the primary focus.

Stopping after school actives might not put a big enough dent in the numbers to have a real impact, but I am surprised the state as a whole is not taking more precautions. I do not expect athletic directors and coaches to make the decision to stop their seasons. The UIL, however, does not have the emotional ties to the students and is in a better position to make an unbiased call.

This is not a call to halt all high school athletics, but it is odd that in the middle of a pandemic, as schools continue to move online and business, which are people’s livelihoods, are asked to roll back, we haven’t considered limiting things we can realistically do without.

Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at chris.moore@panews.com.