(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker doubled down on his stance on high school contact sports this fall at a news conference on Wednesday.
Football, soccer and girls volleyball have all been moved to spring over fears of an outbreak of COVID-19. The Big Ten Conference on Wednesday reversed course to allow football this fall, and neighboring states such as Missouri and Indiana plan to allow high school football to continue.
Pritzker said that is one of the tragedies of not having a national strategy.
“One of the reasons Illinois has the lowest positivity rates among all of our neighboring states is because we have been very careful,” the governor said at a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday.
The Illinois High School Association recently sent a letter to the governor seeking permission for the IHSA and its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to resume control over determining the resumption of high school sports and activities.
A statement on the organization's website clarified the purpose of the letter to the governor.
“Several surrounding states have successfully conducted sports categorized as medium and high risk here in Illinois, and we believe sports and activities are safest when conducted under the IHSA safety protocols by school personnel," the statement said. "Those combined factors led us to issue this letter, and we will respectfully await response to it.”
Dr. Michael Lynn, with the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rush Medical College, said contact sports are the perfect environment for the virus to spread.
“Contact team sports, such as football and hockey, can become super-spreading events very easily,” he said. “Just one youth athlete showing up with the virus can start a chain reaction of spread that can quickly threaten an entire team.”
High school football players, coaches and parents have been holding rallies around the state trying to persuade politicians and school officials to allow the football season to go on this fall. Recent rallies in Wheaton, Crystal Lake and elsewhere called for students to get back in the classroom and back on the playing field.
More rallies are planned for this weekend. Two “Let Us Play” rallies are scheduled for Saturday, one at the statehouse in Springfield and the other in Chicago.