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Spikes in COVID-19 cases make for bumpy sports seasons

The high school sports season is upon us. Students are getting ready to file into schools, and many sports teams are starting their schedules after weeks and months of preparation.

Last year at this time, sports were on hold as the districts, state and University Interscholastic League tried to figure out the safest way to have sports seasons in the middle of the pandemic.

Tournaments were canceled, seasons were pushed back and arenas and stadiums were limited to 50 percent capacity. Many entered the summer with hopes of a return to normal. In the spring, the UIL announced it was up to the districts to determine if players and coaches needed to wear masks and if the stadiums needed reduced capacity.

Every school in the area nixed the capacity cap. Many schools had the intention of getting rid of the mask mandate for the 2021-22 school but those who intended to keep it abandoned plans once Governor Greg Abbott announced no state buildings could require a mask.

While many are getting vaccinated, the new variants of the COVID-19 virus are spreading rampantly through the area and the nation.

Like last year, festivals are shutting down. The New Orleans Jazz Fest announced Sunday it would push cancel this year’s event for the second year in a row. And that is something that generates real money. It seems to be a matter of time before some of those cancelations and push backs hit a little more close to home.

In fact, it has already begun in local high school sports.

The Port Neches-Groves volleyball game against West Brook was the first cancelation of the high school sports season after 4 PNG players tested positive for the virus.

While the game was the first to get the axe, it certainly will not be the last. At the moment, coaches are only allowed to “strongly encourage” players to wear masks. Even then, outbreaks caused the Nederland football team to miss some non-district games last season.

No area teams were forced to forfeit district or playoff games last year, but that is not guaranteed this year.

Since coaches can’t require students to wear masks, it is a matter of time until another outbreak forces more cancelations. All coaches and players can do is either be personally responsible and try to keep themselves and others healthy around them or just hope it doesn’t happen before games that matter.

Packed stadiums also seem like a way to spread the virus quickly.

Unfortunately, the battle we believed we were winning took a turn. St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont elected to change its visitor policy and is no longer allowing visitors in the wake of the most recent spike. This pandemic will impact more sporting events. Students are going to gather in large numbers again and the coaches and athletes are not anymore immune than anyone else and neither are the games.

This isn’t intended to fear monger or even tell anyone how they should react. This is just an honest look about the inevitable impact this is going to continue to have on the high school sports I love.

 

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