Sports leagues should step up during holidays to help mitigate omicron COVID-19 surge

York Dispatch editorial board
  • A COVID-19 surge is being fueled nationally by the omicron variant.
  • Sports leagues at all levels are feeling the effects of that surge.
  • Those leagues should consider the possibility of going on a holiday pause.
  • Leagues should also limit crowds, mandate masks and require vaccines from fans.
Fans watch an NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Having fans sit elbow-to-elbow in packed stadiums is a recipe for disaster during a pandemic surge.

Sports are supposed to be fun and games.

Right now, however, there’s not much fun and a lot a fewer games.

You can thank COVID-19 and the omicron variant for that.

Nearly every league at nearly every level has started to feel the impact.

Players have become infected at a staggering level in recent weeks. The NFL has been forced to move games around, while the NBA, the NHL and major college basketball have had to postpone numerous games.

More:Four new COVID-19 deaths in York County on Monday

More:York City cancels holiday events due to COVID-19 surge

More:Hospitals grapple with limited capacity ahead of anticipated omicron surge

More:Gov. Tom Wolf calls on FEMA to help respond to COVID-19 surge

As of this writing, local high school winter sports have not yet seen a major impact, although it’s a pretty sure bet it will trickle down to the prep level soon.

So, what should we do? Continue to muddle along and play the games as best we can? Or is it time to make more drastic action?

One thing is certain. Doing nothing is not the best option.

Here are a couple things we’d like to see — not because the government is demanding them, but because they are the prudent things to do during the darkest days of a pandemic.

Consider a holiday pause: If at all possible, all leagues (pro, college and high school) should consider going on a holiday pause until at least early January.

On the high school level, for example, the holidays are normally reserved for tournament action. They are great events, to be sure, but they are not necessary in determining league titles. They can be canceled without causing a major disruption for the teams involved. The tournaments weren’t held last season during the winter lockdown and the seasons were still able to be completed just fine.

The same goes for the NHL, the NBA and major college basketball. Games from now through early January can be called off without doing major damage to the seasons.

The NHL is already in a league-wide holiday pause. Games from Wednesday through Saturday have already been postponed.

In the NFL, with only 17 games in a regular season, a holiday pause would be a much more difficult task. The same goes for the major college bowl season. But the NFL and the bowl games could certainly do other things to help mitigate the winter COVID surge.

Such as …

Limit crowds, mandate masks and require vaccines: If you are going to have games during a pandemic surge, you should try to limit the risk to the fans that attend.

There are three main ways of doing that, at least temporarily.

First, limit the crowds to 50% capacity, which would allow for more social distancing. Determining who would, or wouldn’t, get in would be a logistical nightmare, but it could be done. We did it last year.

Second, require masks be worn by all fans at all times. Again, there’s sure to be backlash from the anti-mask crowd, but don’t give them a choice. Mask up or leave.

Finally, require proof of vaccines to gain admittance. It could be a way of convincing some big-time sports fans, who are vaccine hesitant, to finally get the life-saving shots.

No one likes to see such measures get imposed. We are all experiencing COVID exhaustion. In such anxious times, sports can provide a much-needed outlet for taking our minds off the pandemic.

Still, we can’t take our eyes off the most important goal — keeping people healthy and alive.

Sports can play an important role in doing just that, even it will require some sacrifice from all involved.