MHSAA Member Schools,
We are in a unique and uncertain time nationally with the current outbreak of Coronavirus and the response it has triggered at every level from government to spectator sports in our country and nationally. As you may know, in the last 72 hours, the NBA suspended its season after their first case with a player, the NCAA elected to play its championship basketball tournaments without fans, and the SEC will restrict fan attendance at games through the end of March and possibly further. Many colleges and universities are electing to restrict in person classes in an effort to stop the spread of this illness. And the US government will restrict flights from Europe which is experiencing a large and overwhelming outbreak in several countries, for the next 30 days. With this many big changes, it is time for us to start preparing our member schools for measures to help protect our students, coaches, teachers, administrators and parents.
First, let us be clear what we are dealing with, and why we are taking these steps. The Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19, SARS Cov-2, and the novel coronavirus) is a viral respiratory infection with symptoms and severity that is similar to the flu. There have been many different percentages reported as far as how deadly this infection can be, but the safest approximation is to consider it a flu like illness that spreads more rapidly and is more dangerous to the elderly than children or adolescents. The numbers vary, but we estimate that 10-15% of people becoming infected will have severe symptoms, and roughly 5% will require medical care beyond an outpatient medical office visit.
- FLU like symptoms
- Rapid spread among communities
- Many people will be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms but still capable of spreading the virus
Second, what’s the big deal about social distancing and other measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC)? While COVID-19 is viral illness that is not any more deadly than those we see regularly this time or year, there are several factors that make this particular illness dangerous. We do not have any effective vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, meaning those that get seriously ill require extended periods of supportive care such as hospitalizations and even intensive care units. Also, there are few people with existing immunity as there have not been previous episodes of this virus affecting the community and therefore no one has developed a resistance to the infection. Therefore, when this virus gets into a community, it has the potential to spread rapidly and overwhelm our ability to care for the small percentage that get seriously ill.
- This virus has a unique ability to spread rapidly in communities
- Rapid spread leading to large numbers of cases happening at once can overwhelm healthcare resources
- The most effective strategy we have is to try to slow the spread to a rate that can be managed by our system’s resources
Lastly, so what does that mean for sports? This is a time where we need to make difficult choices to protect our community. Recognizing this, the MHSAA will be working to decide when the risks of communities gathering for sports outweighs the benefits, and take appropriate steps to protect our member institutions. We will communicate with you regularly about statewide plans for how to conduce our school activities. We ask that you take these recommendations seriously and partner with us to help protect our most valuable asset, the people that participate in, support, and attend MHSAA events.\
Further information to follow.
Brent Smith, M. D., MSc, FAAFP
MHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee