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Many indicators show we ought to open schools to in-person learning and sports

PMG FILE PHOTO - Scenes like this one - St. Helens' Maddie Holm driving to the basket in 2020 - will have to wait until 2021 when high school sports return with three truncated seasons spread over five months.I get it.

I totally get it.

When the Oregon School Activities Association announced on Aug. 5 that it would essentially cram more than nine months' worth of high school sports into 5 1/2 months' time, it made perfect sense.

MILES VANCEWhen the NBA closed down its regular season for months, then brought it back in a hermetically sealed bubble in Florida, I understood it 100%.

Likewise with Major League Baseball, which shortened its regular season by almost two-thirds, then occasionally shut down teams and series due to COVID-19 infections and didn't start competition until the end of July.

And the same with college sports, which saw both the Big 10 and Pac-12 conferences announce last week that they would postpone all fall sports, including football, until sometime in 2021. While other conferences — notably the Big 12 and SEC — have stated their intention to play in the fall as normal, the pressure to become the next domino that falls will be huge.

All of it — every disappointing, crushing, life-changing, lousy bit of it — I get.

The businessmen, managers, administrators, teachers and others who've made these decisions are doing what they believe to be in the best interests of their businesses, their employees, sports and their athletes. And they're making those choices against the backdrop that is today's litigious society.

That said, none of these decisions are what I'd call courageous.

While cases continue to rise in the United States, there are many indicators that show we ought to open schools to in-person learning and play sports, even lacking the incredible safeguards employed by the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

Statistically, information from Worldometers — a website run by an international team of developers, researchers and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available in a thought-provoking and time-relevant format to a wide audience around the world — shows improvement across the United States.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Scappoose's Luke McNabb (center) and the Indians saw the 2020 season come to an early end, while the 2020-2021 season will be shortened dramatically.• After peaking in late July, the number of daily new cases has leveled off and begun to fall.

• After peaking in late April, then spiking again in late July and Aug. 11, the daily death rate is dropping and has dropped consistently ever since.

• After hitting a low point 10 days into April, the recovery rate has consistently risen over the past four months and now stands at almost 95%.

Similarly, things are moving in the right direction in Oregon, too, according to both the New York Times' Oregon Coronavirus Map and Case Count and the Oregon Health Authority.

• After peaking on July 7, the number of daily new cases has been trending downward.

• There are currently only two real hot spots in Oregon, both on the east side state in Morrow and Malheur counties where the case rate is above 50 per 100,000. The next worst counties are Jefferson (28 cases per 100,000), Hood River (15 per 100,000) and Marion (10 per 100,000).

• After peaking on Aug. 1 and spiking again on Aug. 13, the death rate appears to be dropping again.

• Regarding the safety of high school sports, each of the following 10-year age groups in the state (0-9, 10-19, 20-29, 30-39) report 0% deaths.

Further, experts and leaders across the country are beginning to acknowledge the negative impacts of the coronavirus lockdown on people of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10.7 percent of the more than 5,000 people it surveyed seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days. That number is even higher for people ages 18-24, with 25% of all people in that age range saying that they seriously considered suicide.

Along with reports of increased drug and alcohol use among Americans of all ages during the coronavirus lockdown, the New York Times reports that CDC estimates show at least 200,000 more people have died than usual since March, a number that is about 60,000 higher than the number of deaths that have been directly linked to the coronavirus.

While youth sports may indeed lead to some COVID-19 transmission, the data shows that few young people will suffer serious consequences and even fewer will die.

It also shows that keeping young people locked up indefinitely has a high cost, too.

It's time to let them play.


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