HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y. – With a few exceptions, coaches and student-athletes are carrying on with preparations for the spring sports season despite mounting concerns over COVID-19.
The disease, more commonly referred to as the coronavirus, originated in late December in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province of China, and has now spread to at least 109 countries/regions around the world. As of Monday, March 9, there are more than 111,000 confirmed global cases of the highly contagious disease, including 98 in Westchester County, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Many more potentially infected people are under quarantine.
Concerns over the coronavirus have already canceled a few out-of-state varsity sports trips, but the spring season will otherwise remain uninterrupted—for now.
“I think everybody’s kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen,” said Frank Miele, athletic director at Mahopac Schools. “Everybody’s in a strange position.”
Robert Barrett, athletic director of Yorktown Schools, said his department has been making preparations for weeks, which included canceling out-of-state trips to Tampa Bay (baseball) and Seattle (lacrosse).
“Obviously, it changes day to day,” Barrett said. “Part of me says we’re at the tip of the iceberg and it will only get worse; part of me says the weather’s changing and maybe the virus will change as well. We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
With no vaccines to combat the mysterious virus—symptoms of which include fever, coughing and shortness of breath—it could continue to spread exponentially for an indefinite period of time. The most at-risk populations are the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. More than 3,800 people with the virus have already died, but the true mortality rate is difficult to pin down. According to medical experts, many people who have the disease have exhibited mild to no symptoms, meaning many cases may have gone unreported.
“Many people will have it and not know that they have it,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Monday.
The mortality rate for school-aged children is well under 1 percent, but Miele doesn’t expect the schools will take any chances. The veteran coach and athletic director said it’s possible that games will be canceled and seasons will be shortened, which might be unpopular decisions.
“We’re ready for everything,” Miele said. “Will our kids understand? Probably not. Will our parents understand? Probably not. Our hands are tied and whatever we have to do to make our schools safe, our superintendent will do that.”
When it comes to making decisions about cancellations or postponements during the outbreak, Barrett is guided by a hard-and-fast rule.
“If I wouldn’t send my own kid, I’m definitely not sending somebody else’s kid,” Barrett said.
Most spring games and practices are held outside, potentially lessening the spread of the virus. But for most districts, protocol dictates that when schools are closed, games and practices are also canceled.
“It’s like a snow day,” Miele said. “If it snows, we have no sports.”
The Keio Academy, a private school in Purchase, has already closed its campus for the remainder of the year. North Salem had contests scheduled against Keio in baseball, boys tennis, boys golf and lacrosse.
With the coronavirus, the only certainty is uncertainty.
“Even at my age, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Miele said.
As of Monday, other cancellations/postponements include:
• The Somers School District pushing back the start of its spring season from March 9 to March 10;
• Yorktown baseball canceling a trip to Tampa Bay scheduled for March 25-27;
• Yorktown boys’ lacrosse canceling a trip to Seattle scheduled for March 26-29; and
• John Jay baseball canceling a trip to Walt Disney World scheduled for April 4-8.
Send additional sports cancellations and postponements to firstname.lastname@example.org