by Brian Joslin | September 2, 2020
To the decision makers in the Central League,
I am writing today for three reasons. First, I would like to have a better understanding of how you came to your decision to cancel/ postpone fall sports in 2020. Second, I am asking for you to reconsider your decision. Finally, it would be very beneficial to all involved if you clearly communicate your decisions with the students and parents that you serve.
The large majority of the families with whom I have spoken understand that public safety needs to be considered when making decisions. By and large I haven’t talked to one person who would agree to needlessly put their child/children in harms way. But are we putting them in harms way? The information that I have read on the Chester County Health Department (www.chesco.org) and the CDC’s website (www.data.cdc.gov) seem to indicate that children between the ages of 10-19 are among the lowest in terms of positive test rates. As a matter of fact, according to Chesco.org, of the 16,272 positive cases in Chester and Delaware County combined only 7.7% (1,261) were between the ages of 10-19. To take it a step further, according to the CDC website, in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there have been 0 (zero) deaths between the ages of 0-17 years of age. (Unfortunately the age groups of the two sites did not coincide so comparing apples to apples was difficult).
With those statistics in mind I researched what criteria was being used by the Central League to make the decision to cancel the fall sports season. Over the past week I have contacted members of the Marple Newtown School Board, teachers, coaches, and sports medicine doctors to ask them what criteria is being used to decide when it is safe for our children to return to activities. What I learned is there is no clear understanding of why the decision to cancel fall sports was made. I received answers ranging from “following the PIAA guidelines” to “following Governor Wolfe’s recommendation” to “taking the lead from the Big 10 Conference”? The most credible response came from a sports medicine doctor who stated that the criteria is relatively simple: if the positive test rate in Delaware and Chester County is below 3% then activities are allowed to resume. If the positive test rate is above 3% then it is deemed not safe to return to activities. Simple enough. The PIAA appears to be operating under the World Health Organization’s guideline of less than 5% positive rate. Whether you use the Chester County Health Department or the World Health Organization’s guideline, as of 9/2/2020, should be relatively irrelevant. In the schools in the Central League, the positive rate of every township except one is below 3%. But all of the townships in the Central League are below the 5% positive rate. Furthermore, keep in mind that the reported positive rates are for all age groups, not just school age individuals. If 7.7% of all cases in Delaware and Chester County are between the ages of 10-19 it stands to reason that the percentage of positive cases for that age group would be well below the 3% threshold.
Are any of the criteria I mentioned above true? I don’t know because unfortunately the data used to make the decision to cancel fall sports is not made readily available. As I mentioned before I have talked to doctors, teachers, athletic directors, and school board members. There was no clear rationale. Can you clarify the criteria for us? And if it is true that the deciding factor is 3% positive test rate for the Central League as governed by the Chester County Health Department but 5% for the rest of the Commonwealth of PA why is that the case? According to US News there are 754 high schools in Pennsylvania. As of today 85% will be given the opportunity to participate in after school sports/ activities. Why are we, the Central League, in the 15% that is not giving our children an opportunity?
The physical and mental benefits of physical activity and socialization are well documented. While it would take me off of the topic of this letter it is important to point out how COVID-19 has negatively affected our children. According to a study completed by a team of physicians, child health experts and researchers from UW Health and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, approximately 68% of the 3,243 student-athletes surveyed reported feelings of anxiety and depression at levels that would typically require medical intervention – that’s up 37 percent from past research studies. The study also reported that physical activity levels were 50 percent lower than they were for kids prior to the pandemic and that quality-of-life scores were lower than researchers had ever found in similar studies of adolescents. (https://www.uwhealth.org/news/more-than-two-thirds-of-high-school-athletes-report-anxiety-and-depression-since-pandemic/53429)
With all of that information, I once again ask the Central League to reconsider your decision to cancel fall sports. If, for some reason, you still choose to proceed with the planned cancellation we ask that you please give us a clear understanding as to why you made that decision. Let them play!