Dr. Vin Gupta suggests 2-week testing for return of HS sports originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
High school sports across Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia have been postponed this fall, as the region continues to grapple with how best to accommodate students and student-athletes during the coronavirus pandemic.
The conversation resurfaced last week when Maryland governor Larry Hogan gave the go-ahead for school systems to begin practicing Oct. 7, then again this week when he reiterated his desire for high school sports to return.
"We're pushing to get all the fall sports back, we're pushing to get all of our school systems open and get kids back into class," Hogan said on the “Washington Football Talk” podcast. "We're really missing something by not having our kids back in school and not being out on the field, it's important."
Other states have already allowed for the return of fall sports, but as Hogan pushes for his districts to bring back the likes of high school football and soccer, MSNBC analyst Dr. Vin Gupta warns that the country may be in the midst of the “most vulnerable and dangerous time” of the pandemic.
“I believe it to be true for a few reasons. Number one, any cold climate… cold climates are havens for the transmission of respiratory diseases, like coronavirus, like flu, you name it,” Gupta said on an All-DMV town hall hosted by NBC Sports Washington’s Chad Ricardo. “Viruses like dryer, colder air. And it’s easier to be infected with any of these viruses that, frankly, we think they’re, in many cases, all over the place. Not necessarily in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, based on some of the metrics we have available, but in a lot of parts of the country, a lot of parts of the world, coronavirus is being spread like wildfire in communities.”
Gupta suggested that for students to return to schools and for athletes to return to the field of play, there needs to be some sort of testing. He said it's unfair and unrealistic to expect school districts to foot the bill for daily testing, but thinks bi-weekly testing should be required.
“I don’t know how a school district responsibly restarts sports without at least some cadence in testing,” Gupta said. “This is where there’s failure of government. … I think testing has to happen, but is it every day? We know we can’t do that, like the NBA or MLB. But could it be once a week or maybe once every two weeks based on what’s happening in the surrounding community?"
Even before the cold weather is factored in, Gupta said there are already 40,000 new cases every day in America -- more than the number in all of Europe -- and 1,000 deaths. He said the high baseline for transmission of the virus combined with the expected environmental increase -- just as fall sports in the DMV would get underway under the governor’s approved date -- makes the risk of a second wave “quite high.”
As the risk relates to student-athletes, Gupta cited data that shows those under 23 years old can be infected with coronavirus, transmit it and end up in the ICU, all at the same rates as adults. Additionally, he said there is no scientific doubt that asymptomatic carriers can transmit the virus just as effectively as those who show symptoms. So while student-athletes willing to risk themselves at the expense of a season are less likely to show symptoms, they would still be putting relatives at risk.
“Test positivity -- yours in D.C. I saw it was about 1.6%," Gupta said. "You can argue that if you tested everybody, say, every 10 to 14 days, when community transmission rates are low, and then you would have a reasonable sense of what was happening with virus transmission in a school setting. … To me, every 10 to 14 days should be table stakes for anybody to say, ‘yes, we’re gonna start football again.’”