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Proceed with Caution

Whenever I am feeling blue, I head to Wegmans to see my crew. Haiku? Sorry. My older and wiser friends are always there. They are good for my morale. Most are fans of this column, and this week I wanted to give them some love. Special thanks to John C., Big Mike, Tracy, Mrs. Ginny, and the guy with glasses. I would also like to give my man Jim Carn a shout. He is the most interesting man in Lycoming County. I also ran into Johnny B. from the South Side last week. What a great dude and I thoroughly enjoy our conversations.

Everyone was asking about the upcoming hoops season. Who knows folks, as my outlook changes daily. So, we are OK to practice during the pandemic. The PIAA pleaded the fifth and decided to leave it up to the individual school districts. I am somewhat concerned and doing my best to remain optimistic. The Northern Tier already decided to push things back and word on the street is many others may follow suit. Several schools have already gone to remote learning. With that being said, is it safe to play basketball or wrestle? Hmm. Strange times. And then the governor told everyone to wear a mask while they are indoors. Does this mean our players will have to wear one during competition? Again. Everyone’s an expert and no one has the answers. But I was again disappointed with the PIAA for not making a stand.

Dr. Bob Lombardi didn’t return any of my calls. So, I will have to borrow a few quotes from an AP article. The PIAA gave the green light to schools to begin winter sports across the state of Pennsylvania. During Wednesday’s Board of Directors meeting, the PIAA also approved a recommendation from its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to move ahead with the start of winter sports practices “proceeding with an abundance of caution,” according to the minutes.

The SMAC emphasizes since the impact of COVID-19 varies from county to county and district to district, decisions to start winter sports practices and/or competitions at schools must be balanced with respect to the public health interests in each community,” the minutes read. “As conditions for participation in winter sports allow, the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee affirms its belief that STRICT ADHERENCE by schools and teams to school-adopted health and safety plans, CDC Guidance and PA DOH Guidelines provides a reasonably safe environment for participation in interscholastic athletics.” Anything on masks?

PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi entertained a few questions during a short media session. Jamie Spencer from Webb Weekly is holding on line 2. Bob hopes that schools can begin to get in the necessary preseason practice before it gets too late in the season. He noted that teams will require 15 days of practice before regular-season competition can begin and that the longer a team waits, the more difficult it would be for them to get in a complete season.

“If we’ve learned anything from the fall, the people that started earlier were able to handle interruptions easier than those that started late because they ran against time and they didn’t have any room in the schedule,” Lombardi said.

Concerns have emerged about the starting of winter sports as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the country and the state. DUH. Pennsylvania set yet another record-high with 6,339 new positive cases on last Wednesday. Prior to October, the state had not recorded a single-day total higher than 1,989. Since the start of November, only once has the new case count been below 2,000, and since Nov. 10, each day has seen at least 4,000 new positive results.

Lombardi said that the rising cases are why the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee said schools must move forward with caution and why health and safety guidelines at the school, Department of Health and CDC should be followed. If schools do that, the PIAA believes the adherence will provide a “reasonably safe environment for participation.”

“That is further supported by the fact that we have not learned of any school-to-school or team-to-team spread of the virus through athletics,” Lombardi said. “We are not aware of any, and our Sport Medicine people, who have done extensive research and some of them not only are writing their policies for their health systems are not aware of any or have any research of such. So that’s why that consensus statement was made.” Interesting.

Stay safe kids. Please proceed with caution. Never take anything for granted. Enjoy what you can. I am totally on the fence here. I will continue to pray and send positive vibes to everyone involved. Cheers.

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