By Tony Hooker
I am not employed in the health professions. I’m much more prone to flights of fancy than I am to the toughness, grit and focus it takes to be a care provider.
I am also not a trained epidemiologist. No way would I ever have the drive it takes to sift through the minutia necessary to form a body of information in order to shape public policy.
Nope. What I am is a guy who likes sports. Specifically high school sports. A guy who sees the inherent good in young people learning to put their personal goals behind those of their team. A guy who sees the inherent good in young people pushing their limits to become better at whatever their chosen endeavor.
I’m also a columnist for a local paper. The thought that my editor still gives me free reign to write about almost anything I want still boggles my mind.
Finally, I’m a guy whose whole career has been predicated on helping folks better themselves through education. I’m also a curious sort. It’s been a long-standing joke that being a writer allows me to be nosey, snooping on people’s stories and sharing them with others while getting paid for it.
It’s this curiosity, really, that has led me to write this open letter.
You see, I was perusing the website of the CDC. The Center for Disease Control. The CDC is populated by smart, tough, gritty, focused health care professionals and by driven, uber-intelligent epidemiologists.
And what they, along with their colleagues at USAFacts.org, have discovered is that the state of Illinois has a widely varied number of COVID-19 cases, per county. In fact, as of 5 a.m eastern time this morning, 85.7 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Illinois were found in Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane and Will Counties. On top of that, of the 7309 deaths reported 6173 of them have been reported in those same 5 counties.
85 percent of the cases and 85 percent of the deaths attributed to the coronavirus are in 5 counties. In fact, 93 of 102 counties in Illinois report fewer than 20 deaths. The CDC’s data also shows that the number of deaths for folks under the age of 24 attributed to coronavirus is ridiculously low. And yet, you’ve put policies in place for all of the counties that have interscholastic sports based on the total numbers for the state. It should be apparent that one size fits all isn’t the right rule to use in this case. For many who live in small towns, high school sports are one of the few forms of entertainment available. I know of one shaggy haired VGHS grad in the 80’s whose participation in sports was the only thing that kept him from being an even worse juvenile delinquent that he was. I’ve apologized for such bad behavior a thousand times to my mom, the Reebster.
So, in closing this open letter, I hope that you will at least give some consideration to having a graduated set of rules governing participation. By all means, continue to act in the best interests of the student athletes, but please be open to the possibility that the rules for Douglas county don’t have to be the same as the rules for Cook county. The good that comes from exercise and participation in team sports surely mitigates many, if not all of the risks associated with the pandemic, at least in my opinion.