From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak there have been mixed messages coming from medical professionals at every level, which has made it extremely difficult to know, or trust, what steps we need to take.
In March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advised against healthy people wearing masks.
"The masks are important for someone who’s infected to prevent them from infecting someone else,” Fauci said at the time. “Right now in the United State, people should not be walking around with masks. There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is.”
Just days prior to Fauci’s interview with CBS, Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, the United States Surgeon General, tweeted that masks were not effective in preventing the general public from catching COVID-19.
Fast forward to August and that message has completely changed, to the point where masks are mandated if you are out in public in some municipalities. Hundreds of doctors advise use of a medicine that is decades old to battle the virus, while other parts of society push back against it and call it dangerous.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that college football commissioners and school presidents are coming to different conclusions on what to do about playing football in the fall.
The Big Ten and Pac 12 conferences made the decision to cancel their fall football seasons, with hopes of playing in the spring. Both leagues were adamant that their decision was medically driven, and both made compelling arguments to support their calls.
The ACC (which includes Notre Dame), SEC and Big 12 have all stated they will continue moving forward with the season. All three leagues have also insisted their decision to continue is based on medical advice.
When you have different medical experts advising each league it would make sense that each league is coming to a different conclusion. As we’ve seen at the national level, even listening to one expert can result in advice changing day-to-day. Such is the nature of studying a virus that is still quite new. As we learn more about the virus and its impact on the human body you will see different ways of battling it, and different advice on what you should or shouldn't do.
The ACC is being advised by a group of medical experts that is led by Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a disease specialist at Duke University. Wolfe spoke with The Daily about why he believes the league can continue moving forward with fall football.
“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Wolfe said in an interview with The Daily. “Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.”
One thing experts seem to agree on is COVID-19 is going to join the long list of viruses that we must learn to deal with and accept as part of our life.
“The virus isn’t going away,” Wolfe said in the article. “We have to co-exist with COVID. I like that saying because it summarizes a reality that this virus isn’t going anywhere. Whilst it ebbs and flows, we’re not going to see it ebb to zero anytime soon.”
He compared it to other deadly viruses to provide context.
“This is not Ebola,” Wolfe told The Daily. “It doesn’t have the lethality or the infectivity. So, certain mitigation efforts can be incredibly helpful. We’ve seen that in other countries, sadly not in the United States, where good infection control and good regimented management have allowed groups to co-exist with this virus really well.”
Wolfe did not hide from the fact that playing in the fall, or in the spring, or next fall, will require some to accept there are risks involved.
“You have to feel some level of comfortable playing in a non-zero risk environment,” explained Wolfe. “You can’t tell me that running onto a football field is supposed to be a zero-risk environment. Look at all of the regular sporting injuries that we accept as a certain level of risk as part and parcel of football. Now the reality is that we have to accept a little bit of COVID risk to be a part of that.”
The hope is that these medical experts and college administrators are open and honest with their athletes about those risks. At the end of the day, it should be up to the athletes and their families if they want to accept those risks and keep playing. So far, the players in the ACC, SEC and Big 12 have said they want to play, and their leaders are listening to them.
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