Dr. Rachel Levine: Based on out-of-state data, she says sports not worth risk this fall

(Wilkes-Barre) Citizens Voice (TNS)
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.

The state's Secretary of Health said that while she understands the importance of sports in the physical and mental development of adolescents and teens, that the risks outweigh the rewards in the current health pandemic.

"I understand, being a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, how important sports could be for kids," Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health, said during a news conference Monday. "But given the size and scope of this global pandemic, we, as well as many other states — and I think you'll find more and more colleges and college leagues — are going to say it's not worth the risk to do sports this fall given COVID-19."

While Levine doesn't have the final say on the matter, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has indicated that guidance from state officials will factor into whether high school sports are played this fall.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday strongly recommended school-based and recreational sports be canceled through the end of 2020. One day later, the PIAA Board of Directors hit pause, saying it will reconvene Aug. 21 after collaborating with Wolf and the state Departments of Health and Education.

Based on out-of-state data: When it comes to safely playing sports, Levine said, there isn't much in-state data to examine because schools haven't opened and school sports teams haven't played.

The decision to recommend cancelling Pennsylvania's fall sports, Levine said, was based on data from other states and a high number of severe pediatric cases. She pointed to one camp in Georgia that had widespread transmission among youth.

PIAA-sanctioned fall sports include football, field hockey, golf, cross country, girls tennis, girls volleyball and boys and girls soccer.

"Even though many of those sports are outside, many of the sports are going to involve a lot of personal contact — not just football, but especially football — where social distancing is not going to be possible," Levine said.

According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics in collaboration with the Children's Hospital Association, 338,982 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in children, as of July 30. That represents 8.8% of all cases.

More than 97,000 new child cases were reported from July 16-30, a 40% increase.