Is it a “game on” for winter sports?


With NJ COVID-19 cases on the decline, winter sports are given the ‘all clear’ to continue. However, there are still many precautions and concerns.

Ryan Lemberger

With COVID-19 cases on the decline, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has declared it safe for winter high school sports to begin. However, health officials and parents are concerned that it will contribute to an increased spread of COVID-19.

Limitations allow a maximum of 25% capacity or 150 people, whichever is less. Only essential personnel (i.e. players, coaches and referees) are allowed to attend practices and competitions.

All personnel are required to wear a mask at all times, except for players actively competing. Masks have helped slow the spread of COVID-19, but when removing them to play sports, viral particles can spread much quicker between players. A study by the Washington Post found that over 10% of COVID-19 cases in schools were traced to indoor sports or other activities that did not require masks.

Paul Francisco, an indoor air researcher at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, researched the safety of sports play in different settings. He uncovered that older facilities have better ventilation because they do not have tight seals to outdoor air. While finding these statistics, he discouraged playing indoor sports without masks.

“If you’re going to be in close proximity to people who are infected, then that’s the biggest problem,” Francisco said. “You’re going to get it before the ventilation could ever act on it.”

A study conducted by Medical News Today showed that up to 80% of teenagers can be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 and are capable of spreading it to their parents, grandparents and other high-risk family members.

Basketball player and Sophomore Luke McGrath of Middletown realizes that the risks are high but not enough to stop him from playing. His team is constantly substituting players to limit exposure time.

“It comes to the point where only a limited number of people are in [the gym]” McGrath said. “When you think about it, with all the sports that are being played right now, basketball might be one of the safer ones.”

Indoor sports are high risk and not safe to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ultimately, it is up to the parents to decide whether they want their child playing. People need to make decisions based on their local case numbers and risk to their family.