Op-Ed: Let The Kids Play

The announcement by Governor Tom Wolf recommending that high school sports be postponed until the New Year represents the ongoing dithering and chaos that personifies his performance during this crisis.

Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) – a governing body for high school and junior high sports in our state – did not buck under the pressure.

It is unfortunate that scholastic athletic competitions are now the latest victim of the Governor’s dithering response to COVID-19.

Where is the science and data to validate this type of autocratic announcement?  This is one of the grandest science-denying edicts yet to come out of this administration. 

As part of COVID-19 mitigation measures imposed by Gov. Wolf during the ongoing emergency declaration, high school spring sports were cancelled.

Meanwhile, the state’s 500 school districts were developing health and safety practices that would enable athletic contests to resume this fall.

There is one simple solution: let the kids play.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, children ages 0-19 make up less than eight percent of total confirmed and presumed positive COVID-19 cases.  Instead of focusing on ending the outbreak of the virus among our elderly, accounting for nearly 70% of our state’s pandemic deaths, the Wolf administration is determined spread its manmade misery to every aspect of life in Pennsylvania…all without the science or logic to back up his heavy-handed, one-size fits all edicts.

Locally elected school boards and administrators are fully capable of implementing their own procedures to accommodate athletic contests at their fields and gymnasiums.

According to the Governor’s own edict, groups of up to 250 people are allowed outside. Using his own standards, there is no reason why football teams, coaching staffs, cheerleaders and bands can’t safely convene on fields this fall, along with parents and guardians in the stands. 

But this exposes the hypocrisy of our leadership. 

The governor issues edicts that are so inconsistent and confusing that not even he can abide by them.  For instance, he recently issued an anti-science and constitutionally questionable order demanding that all people wear masks when in a public space. It was not lost on the people of Pennsylvania that he issued this commandment, while he did NOT have one on himself.

And we hearken back to his yellow code edict, where Gov. Wolf prohibited group gatherings of more than 25.  Less than a day later, he irresponsibly marched in a massive protest that far exceeded the edicts he imposed on the rest of us. 

This latest episode of science-denying antics began when the Governor and his Health Secretary announced that no spectators would be allowed at fall sports.  This was a contradictory and confusing edict, given the fact that the Governor’s own (flawed) orders allow outside gatherings of up to 250-people.

When will this madness end?

When will parents, student-athletes and community members be permitted to decide for themselves? Do we need this type of government overreach in our lives?

When will local school boards and school boards be entrusted by the Governor to make decisions befitting their communities?

Sporting events can and should be conducted this fall.  Schools should be given the common courtesy of being permitted to implement COVID-19 mitigation measures, so student-athletes can continue healthy living.

Sadly, the Wolf administration has no confidence in our school boards and school leaders to implement proper safety protocols. Otherwise, he would not have issued an out-of-the-blue mic drop at a recent press conference.

There are 500 hundred school districts in Pennsylvania, so there is certainly no reasonable “one-size-fits-all” approach that will work for our state.  

I am heartened to hear that the PIAA is considering the “negative impact on students’ physical, social, emotional and mental health.”

Although the governor continues to not show up to work at his office, I have advocated that everyone works together as we move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic and this is a perfect opportunity to embody that type of approach.

In conjunction with school districts, the PIAA is more capable than Secretary Levine of developing a plan for the safe continuation of fall sports, rather than a one-size-fits-all mandate enforced in a top-down approach demanded by Gov. Wolf.

Listening to the experts, and reviewing the science, it’s time that we let the kids play.

Senator Mastriano represents the 33rd District in the Pennsylvania Senate. The District includes Adams County and parts of Franklin, Cumberland and York counties.

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