It has been a month since this region entered Stage Three of Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening plan. Many of the businesses that were able to survive the financial Armageddon of this first wave of the pandemic have reopened. Schools will reopen in less than a month. Employment numbers are recovering. While day-to-day life has been altered, it continues. Are the protocols that have been put in place and adjustments to daily-routine enough to mitigate a second wave of COVID-19?
Sports and recreation programs have been planning since the pandemic began on how to reopen when they are allowed. Most organizations have developed strategies for returning to play this summer and fall. Most recently the local hockey district announced what the fall season will look like and it is in line with much of what other areas are doing: training, conditioning, and scrimmage games; no travelling, no league play, and no actual games. For anything further, a wait and see approach is taken. Maybe there will be games in January, or maybe everything will get shut down because of a second wave.
Washington Nationals’ pitcher Sean Doolittle was quoted in a Washington Post story about the return of baseball while COVID-19 numbers were surging in the United States saying “Sports are like the reward of a functioning society.” This begs the question, are we there yet?
Parents of school children are grappling with this question right now as the reward of returning to school, with restrictions, is being weighed against the risk of infection. If that very real risk exists in schools with all the precautions and measures in place, are we ready to return to sports facilities? Does the reward outweigh the risk?
There is no doubt that sports organizations have done a great job with preparing a ‘return to play’ plan. Many of these groups are volunteer-run and do this work for the love of their sport. But few are public health experts. We also know that it is important for people, especially kids, to be active. After months of pandemic hibernation, resuming physical activities is important for health and wellness. But are we at the point where it is safe to return to arenas and gymnasiums to resume our functioning society?
There more questions than answers, and that is part of the problem of this “new normal”. When all we have is questions, the only answer we really have is to do what we feel is best for our individual families. Is that the reward of a functioning society?