An Attempt To Write About Covid

Aug 4, 2020

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It's funny. I spent hours and hours last week writing a post about Covid only to delete it upon completion because there's so many things I just don't understand. But here I am again, writing about Covid. I wonder if I'll delete this one before I get to the end. YOU MIGHT NEVER READ THESE WORDS.

Perhaps the best way to do this is to just ask a bunch of questions. Maybe we can have a discussion in the comments. And yes, I realize that I just said "maybe we can all have a civil discussion about Covid". Even scientists say we don't know enough about the virus, and here I am, opining.

Or perhaps just asking questions. Here's where I'm stuck: Are we currently at "eliminate spread" or "manage spread"? Man, that's a bad way to ask that question. I need to back up. All the way back.

In February I read this article (I promise I'll eventually get to "how does this affect college athletics?"). That's the now famous "you're probably going to get Coronavirus" article in The Atlantic. It suggested that, with asymptomatic spread, there were probably already 200 people in the US with Covid, and that's enough to "seed" it across the entire country. It stressed all of the things that have been stressed since - for many, symptoms will be mild, and for some, symptoms will be nonexistent - but that the risk to the older population and those with immune system issues would be vast.

At the time, I think my takeaway was "it's here, and it's going to spread like the flu, but it's not going to affect my daily life". Like most, I didn't know anything about flattened curves or asymptomatic spread. That changed on March 12th and... well, you all know this part. I'm just retracing my steps.

We then learned about flattened curves. Yes, this whole thing could be over by May. We could let it spread like wildfire, X-number of people would die, hospitals would be overwhelmed, but we'd reach herd immunity and move on. Flattening that out would really lengthen the process here - people will catch it in June and October and next February instead of two awful months in the spring of 2020 - but it's the best way to limit the deaths.

(If you disagree with some of these details - and I sure I have some of them wrong - please just keep reading. I'm just retracing the lowlights to get to my point.)

The curve was flattened - or, at least, flattened enough that there are currently no hospitals in the US bending under the pressure of coronavirus - so now we're in the messy "waiting for a vaccine" phase. (I understand that some will say there are still hospitals bending under pressure and others will say that there were never really any hospitals bending under pressure, but I'm trying to avoid those Facebook debates and get to my point.) In this phase, I find myself really struggling to understand what we're going for. Is it "between today and a vaccine limit the cases to as few as possible" or is it "keep it between the rails"? I'm asking.

Because of the way Illinois has gone about this (the state, not the school), I'm of the belief that the point is "keep it between the rails". We moved from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and then Phase 4 of this Restore Illinois plan but some areas like the Metro East are now in danger of going back to Phase 3 because of rising case counts. That's what I mean by "keep it between the rails". We'd all still be locked down if the point was "eliminate as many cases as possible". Governmentally, the attempt is to find a balance between total lockdown and cases spiking out of control. I don't envy anyone making these decisions.

OK, finally back to sports, because this is where I get confused. Northwestern announced that they had paused workouts because of one positive case. The same day, Illinois announced that there have been 23 cases among athletes since they returned to campus in early June, with 75% of those positive tests coming from the football team. This is what I meant by "eliminate spread" and "manage spread" above. Shutting down because of one positive seems to be in the "eliminate spread" camp. Quarantining athletes after positive tests (Illinois says there are only three active cases at the moment) and continuing workouts even after positive tests seems to be the "manage spread" method.

I understand the big picture here. The risk with 23 cases over two months is spreading it to the community. It's likely (although not a certainty) that 20 year-old athletes won't see severe symptoms nor have any lasting effects. But there's always the risk of community spread. That having football workouts puts an unnecessary burden on the C-U community (I mean, that includes me now).

And that's where I get stuck in my head. I feel like I need guidance. We've flattened the curve below the "healthcare system overwhelmed" line. If it ever creeps up to that line again, we'll go back under certain lockdown restrictions (and college athletics will be shut down). But short of that line, what are we going for? I'm honestly asking, because I don't think I know the answer.

If it's "the fewest number of cases possible between today and the day a vaccine arrives", then we all need to Northwestern (one positive test, shut down all workouts).

If it's "keep the line below 'healthcare system overwhelmed' until we have a vaccine", then Northwestern should Illinois and work players out in groups of 12 (or whatever the number was), quarantine a group if there's a positive test, and keep going.

I'm asking this because we're approaching full team workouts soon. If there's going to be a season there has to be practice, and that means 105 players practicing together. Across the country, there will be positive tests. And when those positive tests are announced, I need to know what they mean.

Here - I show you how I've approached this issue over the last five months. I last wrote about this topic on March 25th, so two weeks after everything was canceled. Here's what I wrote at the time:

We'll start here: I think we have to at least acknowledge that the 2021 college basketball season might not be played. I'm not trying to scare everyone, just noting that we don't really know when this might end. I've already come to grips with the fact that this college football season might not be played. I've read several articles about the Spanish Flu in 1918 and how it came roaring back in the fall and wiped out the college football season. That's obviously possible here, and when I stretch out that thought...

Until there's a treatment or a vaccine, it feels like we're constantly be at risk of a hotspot. We'll flatten the curve, and cases will be spread out over 18 months, not two months, and during those 18 months - again, without a treatment or vaccine - it feels like a shooting guard from Utah could get COVID-19 and shut down the entire Maui Invitational overnight. And then there's a hotspot in Ohio and all college sporting events are canceled in Ohio for the month of January 2021 (and so on). Maybe there's articles I'm not reading, and maybe there's some "herd immunity" thing I don't understand, or maybe there's even a treatment approved in two months and life returns to normal, but to me, I've already begun to deal with "the next event I cover could conceivably be the Nebraska game in Ireland".

Let's focus on that shooting guard testing positive (and let's make him a Texas shooting guard because Utah isn't even in the Maui Invitational). The Maui Invitational is still on as of three weeks ago. Given how college athletics seems to be moving towards "conference play only, limit travel", I'm guessing it will be canceled, but as of now, still on. An event like that - eight schools from eight different parts of the country all flying to Hawaii - would make me uneasy if I'm the Hawaii Governor, but again, all of those uneasy thoughts get stuck on this same topic. Is the focus to stop all spread? If so, a Texas shooting guard taking Covid to Hawaii is a nightmare. Is the focus to keep the case number at a manageable level until a vaccine? If so, even though it makes me uncomfortable to think of eight states sending a plane to Hawaii, play on as long as the Hawaii numbers look OK.

I know it doesn't work like this, but I find myself wanting someone to come out and declare which one of those two tracks we're supposed to be on. If it's the first, it's fairly obvious now from the Marlins to the Cardinals (to Clemson and Rutgers) that this can't be done without multiple cases so shut it down. If it's the second, I'd like some guidance on how much is too much. The plan of "we'll build in multiple bye weeks for rescheduled games to take place" makes sense logically - if there's a spike in cases two days before a game you cancel and reschedule when both teams are spike-less - but again, what are the parameters of a spike? Five positive tests? Fifteen? The starting QB is going to be out?

I guess this is all a result of the first pandemic of my lifetime. There are no rules. It's a bunch of moral questions and every country is dealing with it in a different way. But when I see these Northwestern and Illinois stories drop on the same afternoon, they lead to one question: what's the goal right now? And, specifically, for me, what's the goal in Champaign, Illinois? If I'm doing the math right, 12 football players arrived on campus testing positive (all quarantined and recovered) and six have tested positive in the last two months. Is that putting this community at risk of greater spread? Or is the point that the healthcare system can manage that spread and play should continue?

In March, when I wrote the article linked above, I was thinking in Rudy Gobert terms: one positive test cancels games. In June, when the charts all pointed downward and athletes were returning to all campuses, I was fairly certain that positive tests wouldn't shut anything down. Each campus had a plan for what happens when positive tests occur because positive tests are absolutely going to occur. Then states saw spikes over the summer and I'm not sure I've seen anyone tell me what it means.

So I find myself wanting someone to make that declaration. Which of these two?

1. We're going to attempt this, but once the season starts, positive tests will cancel games (and then the season). Like March with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, this is a public health issue. We cannot have Oklahoma traveling to Ames, Iowa and possibly bringing an outbreak along with them.

2. We're going manage the cases as they come up. We will quarantine players, reschedule games if cases reach X, and generally ask teams to go deep into their roster in order to continue playing games. All players can opt out at any time and keep their scholarship.

I feel like I could understand and accept both. "Is there a risk for long-term health issues for the players themselves?" is also part of this, but I feel like that's a separate discussion (and would be part of both 1 and 2 here). My question right now - which of these is the track we're on?

"Northwestern football suspends all workouts after positive test" would suggest it's 1. "Illinois has seen 23 cases in all sports the last eight weeks; 20 recovered, 3 still quarantined" would suggest it's 2.



SactownIllini on August 4, 2020 @ 12:11 PM

Great article and questions! Seems to me the answer to everything lies in the lowest (highest) ranking person that wants to make a call about locking something down makes that call. And that gets as low in the chain as possible too. For instance, a coach could shut it down. An AD could shut it down. A university president could shut it down. The Big Ten could shut it down. The NCAA could shut it down. A county public health official could shut it down. A governor could shut it down. A president could shut it down. And it is really the personality and core beliefs of that person that makes the call. It seems as there is no guidebook to follow when it comes to college sports and you also get into these sticky authority questions.

If you recall, the Governor of Ohio was one of the main catalysts for shutting down the NCAA Tourney because the first games were scheduled to be in Dayton. I could see him shutting down OSU football because anyone who has ever been to Columbus on game day knows how crazy that city gets, regardless if fans are in the stadium or not. And like you mentioned, football players testing positive puts the entire community at risk. Small cities aren't equipped to handle massive outbreaks.

My guess is we'll attempt to play but too many positives in one city will shut one team down. And there goes the season.

Still hoping because man our football and basketball teams haven't been this good at the same time in 19 years!!

Robert on August 4, 2020 @ 03:40 PM

Good points. And when you talk about it like that (any person at any level making any decision), it makes me think that "wear a mask if you want college football" misses the mark, too.

Not the "wear a mask" part. The whole "wear a mask and the numbers will go down and then football will be OK" part. Lower numbers are better than higher numbers obviously, and masks can be part of getting there, but it just doesn't seem like there's some threshold we cross where "OK, cases are low enough that an outbreak from a football game is no big deal".

Over the healthcare system line, yes, everything is 100% shut down. But I struggle to find a tier between that and "we now have a vaccine so everything is 100% open." Cases going up, cases going down - there's still risks involved no matter the numbers. States have different guidelines, schools have different guidelines, so it's hard to say "here's the line we need to cross to have football". We could see cases continue to climb and we still see football and we could see cases drop to new lows and not have football.

Scott on August 4, 2020 @ 07:02 PM

One of the things, I think, that we need to get away from is discussing this in the terms of cases. Cases in themselves are not a negative, they are a positive. They get us closer to herd immunity. It is only if they are connected to hospitalizations that they become a problem. Since there is little risk of hospitalization at this age group, I would prefer cases not be used as a qualifier at all. Keeping it between the rails is supposed to be about the medical community. The qualifier should be hospitalizations. High School fall sports were basically eliminated because 36 athletes tested positive at Lake Zurich. None were sick. They only tested because the school had a testing policy to qualify for practice. Yet they didn't get this at practice. They traced it to July 4th parties. Because the state has a cases alone standard, it shut everything down. You've already discussed the difficulty in setting a number for cases. That's because in themselves, they don't really matter.

Hoppy on August 7, 2020 @ 11:08 AM


I think this is a good way of looking at it. And I think you could take it a step further. California (at least LA County but I'm guessing it's similar for the other counties) actually reports both hospitalizations AND severe hospitalizations.

There is an entire spectrum of how people are responding mentally to this virus. Some just aren't worried at all, and some haven't left their house in months. When the ones who are VERY worried happen to come down with the virus, they go to the hospital. They may be sent home later that day with instructions to rest and drink fluids...and they recover and are perfectly fine.

But that hospital visit still counted in the "hospitalizations" count. So California started tracking the visits that truly matter. The ones that take up ventilators and beds in the ICU. We have been trending in the positive direction for months and never actually got close to capacity during the April surge.

Anyway, I agree with your post and figured I'd add on.

I think there is too much info going around and some of it is being used to drive agendas. Who knows what those agendas may be and why? I don't know. But when I see multiple news agencies reporting the same info with different conclusions...I know something is up.


The Olaf Rules on August 4, 2020 @ 12:16 PM

Great questions. My quick, top level thoughts:

Authorities are struggling with whether to go with option 1 or 2 because of the severity of this virus RELATIVE to others - it is not nearly as deadly as viruses like Ebola, SARS or MERS. On the other hand, it is super contagious and appears deadlier than the seasonal flu in certain populations (elderly, people with comorbidities, people of color).

Personally, I am OK with your option 2, mainly because the data SO FAR indicates that the numbers of young people who are hospitalized and die from this virus are not statistically different from the seasonal flu (and actually are lower in the 0-17 age cohort). As of now the data suggest that the risk of a poor medical outcome for an athletic 20 year old is infinitesimal. That data obviously could change. I also cannot discount those folks who say that there could be long term effects of the virus of which we are unaware of right now. That’s why I think it is appropriate to allow student-athletes the opt out option.

Bottom line, I think if the athletes want to play, we should let them play, because the medical risk to the players from Covid seems small; no worse than anything else. Staff needs to protect themselves through social distancing. So... option 2.

uofi08 on August 4, 2020 @ 01:01 PM

Agree with pretty much all of this.

iluvrt on August 4, 2020 @ 09:22 PM

The mother of the Indiana athlete makes be believe it is well above infinitesimal for the 20 year old athlete. We often say the loss of one life is too many. How many of the cases like this one are too many? Cut and paste link. I'm too dumb to get a hyperlink added.

jdl on August 4, 2020 @ 01:05 PM

They are making it up as they go along, so there won't be that answer you're looking for. It's August 4th and we still don't even have a final B1G football schedule.

GForce on August 4, 2020 @ 04:45 PM

You're right. We don't have a playbook. It's been 100 years since we last had to deal with something like this. The only people saying (shouting) we needed a playbook were epidemiologists and the like, and only Horton could hear that Who. It's too late to adopt an Asian country-type playbook at this point, and I don't think we have the will or ability anyway. So really it's about Robert's option 2. But how do you keep it within those rails, and where do you even set those rails, when so many people can be asymptomatic and states are constantly having to react to spikes after the fact? I just hope someone's taking notes so we have a playbook for next time.

uofi08 on August 4, 2020 @ 01:17 PM

Good article. To jump ahead to your 2 options, it seems like everything starts at option 2 up until the seasons actually start and then it jumps to option 1. I base this primarily on MLB and what I perceive to be college football's path. MLB expanded rosters, completely reorganized their schedule and travel, created those "farm" teams, giving everyone the impression that, sure there would be cases, but those individual cases would be dealt with and the games and season would continue with whatever replacements were needed. A couple weeks in and any team that suffers positive tests is basically held out of games for an extended period of time. No calling up replacements from the farm team, no continuing to play while only the positive tests are quarantined. To me personally, that kind of defeats the purpose of having the season. I think everyone understands there will be positive tests. It's how you want to deal with them that's the issue.

To circle this back to college football, it seems that the actual teams and schools are charging forward assuming option 2. Test frequently, quarantine when necessary, but start team activities as if the season will happen. There's virtually 0% chance that any team the size of a CFB team on a college campus will see no positive cases throughout a season. Anyone should be able to see that. The question is who's actually in charge and what do they want to do? I think there's a way to have the season, but you have to understand that there will be instances of individual or entire groups of players testing positive. There needs to be a threshold for when to cancel games, but a positive test here or there should be dealt with individually. What I want to happen and what I think will happen are very different. I want the season to go on and individuals who test positive are quarantined accordingly but entire teams are not forced to miss games. What I think will happen will be basically what is going on with baseball. As soon as a team gets a positive test, they will be forced to quarantine and games will be cancelled. I think the only hope for a season is if one of the power 5 conferences, probably SEC, comes out with a plan that is basically option 2 and they are determined to not cancel games. If that happens, there would be tons of pressure on the other P5s to follow suit.

Nashvegas Illini on August 4, 2020 @ 04:49 PM

This all hinges on testing and how long for the results come back. Will they cancel a game for 1 positive result? if the test was taken on Monday and the result came back on Wed, then no I think they would hold out the player. But if the results came back on a Friday or Sat morning what do you do?

This is how I expect the Big 12 and SEC to "MANAGE" the numbers. They probably will only test once a week and early in the week. This way they know who can play and can't for that week.

Hoppy on August 7, 2020 @ 11:19 AM

While I am in the same mindset (want only those testing positive held out and games continue), I think the issue is when one person tests positive, you may have no idea when they got it. So you have to trace back 14 days and see who all they have been in contact with. If that person was hanging out with 1/4 of the team...well then do THEY have it? And then people in leadership positions get worried.

If there is an accurate, 1-hour or less, test that the athletes can use consistently (practice, games, whatnot) then maybe they can basically create these bubbles where only those testing negative can get into the stadium or on the practice field, thus giving everyone there peace of mind.

That might be expensive and a logistical nightmare, though. (Especially for away teams traveling)

uofi08 on August 4, 2020 @ 05:01 PM

I'm no doctor or even close to it, so this is mostly a "throw something out there" kind of post. This idea of herd immunity got me thinking. Younger people are typically not hit by Covid as badly as older people. Hypothetically, what if for young athletes, this was treated similar to the way chicken pox was in my early childhood, where everyone got it to get it out of the way? I assume it's way to risky to do that with a new, relatively unknown virus. But hypothetically, wouldn't you be able to have the entire team get the virus and recover, thus establishing "team immunity" before the season? I have no idea if it would actually work and I'm assuming it's way too risky for anyone to knowingly get infected. Again it's probably ridiculous, just throwing it out there.

Scott on August 4, 2020 @ 06:32 PM

We were discussing this at work. Obviously at camp, when they are isolated, would seem to be an optimal time. My concern would be with the lineman.

larue on August 4, 2020 @ 06:58 PM

I don't think they are 100% sure you can't get it again, so probably not worth the risk of intentionally getting it to be done with it. And as already mentioned, concern about the linemen in football and increased risk from the weight they carry. Apparently one freshman OL at IU has been pretty severely affected.

mattcoldagelli on August 5, 2020 @ 11:43 AM

Not meaning to be blunt, but it is terrible idea to treat a virus we have known about for all of 9 months like the chicken pox. We don't know about long-term effects. We don't know how long immunity lasts. We don't know if herd immunity via natural spread is even possible (to the comment above that "cases are good, actually" - they are not; we are not anywhere near natural herd immunity, which would take like 200M+ Americans getting sick and recovering)

Viruses do really weird things. Measles effectively wipes the memory of your immune system. Chicken pox resurfaces decades later as shingles. Based on some early observations that even asymptomatic patients are experiencing lung damage, and that there are neurological effects as evidenced by the loss of taste and smell, players and their parents can absolutely be forgiven for not wanting to sign themselves up for a vast experiment to see what those effects are.

Scott on August 5, 2020 @ 03:05 PM

"Not meaning to...." but I will. ?? I apologize if the team exposure post came across as flippant. It was more like random water cooler talk. I am not disagreeing with anything you have said. Especially in the 2nd paragraph. I do love when people say limit exposures, because we don't know if it will make you immune. And then leave it there. The end result of that scenario would truly be an ugly outcome. I think there are 5 possible outcomes to this. #1) This just miraculously disappears (not likely). #2) We develop a cure for this. (possible, but not likely). #3) We can develop long term immunity and we achieve herd immunity through exposure and/or a vaccine. #4) We can develop short term immunity and with a vaccine we achieve some semblance of protection. #5) We develop no immunity so no amount of sickness or vaccine will help. IMHO, the best (of the likely) scenarios is #3. This is what I am hoping for, hence my position of viewing cases positively. This would be similar to say the measles, (but not affecting the young nearly as severely). Under option #4 we are looking at something similar to the flu. The main difference is that since CoViD does not appear to be seasonal, instead of 20k to 40k deaths a year (flu) you are probably looking at double that amount. The fifth option is ugly. The rest of our lives we deal with a virus that kills or damages the elderly and the compromised. If #3 is true, we are looking at a set amount of time that can be accelerated with a vaccine. With no vaccine, at the current exposure rate, we are looking at almost 10 years that we have to figure out how to live. Under #4 and #5 we are looking at forever and we must figure out how our society is going to exist moving forward. If #4, do we live like we do with the flu. If #5, do we live like we did before the measles, mumps, and polio vaccines, knowing it was a part of everyday life but still living? Sorry for the long post, just thinking out loud.

Hoppy on August 7, 2020 @ 12:54 PM


Harvard Medical School did some research led by neuroscientists that found the virus wasn't affecting the neurological cells of the olfactory system (the system that controls smell/taste for those unsure) but support cells to those neurological cells.

Apparently there is a receptor protein in those support cells that COVID-19 attacks. Those cells are degraded, thus the loss of taste/smell. Luckily, they regenerate. Sometimes within days, sometimes within months...which explains why most people regain their sense of smell/taste. At the very least, it doesn't seem to be neurological since the neurological cells in the olfactory system don't have that protein.


And to your point about cases not being good: If we want herd immunity, you're incorrect. More mild or asymptomatic cases are good. Specific cases (the serious ones) are obviously not good because it could kill someone. But, to achieve herd immunity, we need to have more cases. And since the majority of cases so far have been mild or asymptomatic, more cases is a good thing.

We need more of those cases to create the natural human buffer that keeps this virus from jumping so quickly over to a vulnerable person. (which is basically what herd immunity is)

So while we will never intentionally infect 200M people, more cases (especially those mild or no symptoms one) is definitely good.

We may be on our way cases continue to go up but there hasn't been a corresponding spike in deaths. (An increase to be sure...but not a spike like in April)


Brave Illini on August 4, 2020 @ 09:07 PM

Let's not overlook that while young people may handle the infection ok, they can spread it to others who may not. So keeping the overall number of infections down has something to be said for it.

IBFan on August 4, 2020 @ 10:46 PM

Those that will get sick and those with co-morbidity issues are “x” versus the rest of the entire population that will contract the virus an have little health consequences. There is no way in this vast country, with the freedoms we have, layered authority, people’s free will, and the sheer arrogance of our population that isolation is the answer. Until a vaccine the herd must move forward. As a person with asthma, diabetes, and not considered a spring chicken, I must manage the risk and my mental, physical, and financial well being.
I do not expect the teenagers in my area to stop living and give up their freedoms so I can have an easier time with my own responsibilities. I shouldn’t go to a bar right now, I shouldn’t go to the Illini game, I shouldn’t travel, but I hope you all do.

Hoppy on August 7, 2020 @ 11:49 AM


I agree with this.

And I'll add on that it is also the responsibility of those young folks to be much more aware of who they come in contact/how they come in contact with them.

You may not be able to go places, but it would be unfair to you if us young/healthy folks went to a football game, got exposed, and then were reckless with our health behavior when we walk next to you at the grocery store.

I think this virus is truly a good time for people to take a step back, and reflect on how their actions can affect other people. Let's go about our lives if we are in the "less risk" age group but also become more cognizant of our fellow man and how we need to keep them safe. We have a chance here to grow together as a society and become empathetic.

Instead we are isolating, becoming distrustful of every person we see walking towards us on the sidewalk, avoiding our fellow man, and even attacking them. (Look up "couple throws coffee at man without mask" on google. It happened a couple miles from where I live)


genoaillini on August 4, 2020 @ 11:51 PM

I feel by wanting football this fall (and all other sports) and kids attending in person school, is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole in a futile attempt for us to believe and rationalize in our brains that if we keep pushing forward with some precautions put in place, that everything will be fine and under control, which is so far from reality. I wish I had a magic wand to make everything go away, but if baseball is seeing outbreaks in the span of two weeks, what's going to happen when you put 100 football players in practice, kids come back to campus for classes, and there's no bubble to prevent anyone from traveling back and forth from home and school which continues to spread the virus. And what happens if there is a season and the team travels to Wisconsin, only to come back to find out a player on their team is positive or one of ours is positive upon his return. It's all over. Now multiply that times how many colleges in every state. The pessimist in me sometimes thinks we're going to be sitting here a year from now having the same conversation unless a vaccine comes along, because I feel we're making this up as we go along and don't have any sort of plan.

Eagle on August 4, 2020 @ 11:52 PM

Interestingly, we’ve travelled for AAU b-ball this summer and I haven’t heard of a single player or parent getting sick. Been to KC, STL and Indy. The only one cancelled was in the county with the lowest death rate/ 100k - Columbia MO. These were decent sized tourneys with hundreds of players. Parents wore masks all the time and players wore them going in and out. I think it can work on large scale too.

Hoppy on August 7, 2020 @ 11:50 AM

Very interesting. Thanks for the info!

LincolnJT24 on August 5, 2020 @ 12:27 AM

Excellent article Robert with many valid points. Here’s my humble thoughts:

As much as we’ve learned, there is still too much that we do not know. We don’t know how long immunity lasts. We do know it’s rarely fatal in young healthy individuals, but, we don’t know what the long term impacts are (emerging research about the impact on the cardiovascular system is especially concerning). We don’t know how it spreads - significant debate in the medical community whether this thing is airborne, transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets, or some combination of both.

These ongoing unknowns are contributing to a more risk-averse response from big businesses and government entities; until they know exactly what the risks are, there’s a hard to dispute argument to “play it safe.” You also cannot underestimate the role of liability in these decisions, IMO. You also cannot reasonably ask people to sign a waiver assuming all responsibility if they get sick, when they could do everything right and still get sick. The legalities of all of this are playing a role in the decisions.

As for your two paths, I understand what you’re saying and I was there myself for a time. I think our challenge is that, in order for Option 2 to be successful, everyone essentially has to have an Option 1-like approach in their personal decision-making. If 80-90 percent of people were highly vigilant, we would still have some incidental spread but it would be manageable as you describe in Option 2 and then we could reap the benefits of it being manageable. Instead, it seems like as people have operated at Option 2 - “I’m going to go to this bar / restaurant, I’m going to go to church, I’m going to go to that cookout. I know it’s a little risky, but I’m gonna be a little cautious and be fine” - and, unfortunately, that’s not getting the job done. That has created a third scenario that’s been our reality for most of the last month: a plateau of cases nationally around 50,000 per day and various hot spots that force mitigations (like K-12 schools not being open in the fall). There’s also just a fair amount of people who are taking no precautions whatsoever and that’s not really Option 2 material either.

The other critical thing is testing. For athletics to happen, they need to be testing like the NBA is. Do that and do your damndest to keep teams in a bubble on your campus and you’ve got a shot to play some games.

I have honestly wondered about the viability of bubbles for basketball. Probably not realistic but ... could the Big Ten do a bubble of 7 teams in Chicago and 7 teams in Detroit or Cleveland this winter? That would get each team 12 games theoretically. Then you’d have to figure something else from there, but it’d be something at least.

At the end of the day, there are just moral questions. As a fan, I hope we can play some games but, I also struggle to ask anyone to risk their safety for my entertainment. Pandemics suck.

Hoppy on August 7, 2020 @ 12:14 PM

I don't think there is any real answer. We talk about how hot spots are coming up and we've seen a resurgence in cases, but deaths haven't followed suit to the same degree as April. (even though cases increased past April cases)

Also, two of the biggest hot spots (California/LA County in June/July and Louisiana recently) were two of the stricter states with mask policies and were later than many states to begin the implementation of their phased reopening. How did they become hotspots?

What I think we need to realize is that we have a virus on our hands, that cares very little what we do on large scale levels. It's going to spread. Maybe we slow it here and there, but it won't be enough as even places that think they are doing things right can get hit.

uilaw71 on August 5, 2020 @ 07:52 AM

Nuanced responses to your thoughtful essay, Robert. Unfortunately there is a whole segment of our population who will not approach Rona as circumspectly. Here’s one example, the consequences of which will reverberate nationally as attendees return home:

I get the business owners driving the decision to hold the event. This one event makes or breaks their whole year. But here’s what is frustrating about the official “wisdom” that enables such decision-making:

I operate a small business, and like so many have been impacted. Just this week we had an employee (1 of 4), go out with COVID symptoms. This in a county adjacent to yours, Robert, with just 30 known active cases and an overall positivity rate of less than 1.5%. So on the one hand an argument can be made for how well we are doing.

But what happens in such a population when members increasingly believe life can resume as if the pandemic and its consequences were contained? That’s my fear, and sad to say in this case I have to side with Purple - and that cuts against my Orange and Blue blood.

thumpasaurus on August 5, 2020 @ 01:10 PM

There were these two weeks in June where it felt like it was on the path to being contained; daily cases were starting to go back below 20K as the early hotspots in NYC/Chicago/Detroit fizzled out. In retrospect, it's like that drive we had going in the Rose Bowl against USC where if we keep this drive going we could stay right in this game.

The same thing happened.

uilaw71 on August 5, 2020 @ 04:47 PM

Or the first possession, 1/2/1984, against UCLA.

Chukwuwumba on August 5, 2020 @ 09:15 PM

Maui invitational example. It will actually be happening all over the country this month for colleges that decide to have on campus learning. The concern is students bringing it to college towns that have not been exposed to it yet, spreading it in those communities. May find out my end of August whether college sports are possible or not. If colleges start closing for remote learning, other questions. All students leave campus? Or athletes on campus and may actually be better off with protocols and an empty campus again? Well thought out requests from BIG players

Efremwinters84 on August 7, 2020 @ 04:55 PM

Based upon the feedback, Robert, this appears to be your most popular post in quite some time (perhaps ever??)!!!

I remain the eternal optimist that we'll crown an NCAA National Champ in football, basketball and baseball this school year. Quite an interesting dialogue/debate.....

Bear8287 on August 7, 2020 @ 09:54 PM

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