State Representative Adam Niemerg (R-Dieterich) says a bipartisan group of 44 legislators and school association leaders are correct to request expanded access to student sports events, but 25% of fans and audience is not enough. A letter was sent this week to Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike requesting schools be allowed to host more fans at extracurricular events. Also signing the letter were the executive directors of the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the Illinois Principals Association, the Illinois Athletic Directors Association, and the Illinois High School Association.
“I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues and education leaders to request that sporting events allow more spectators, but only 25 percent is not good enough,” demanded Rep. Adam Niemerg. “All of the data and science tells us that young people in schools and playing sports are not highly susceptible. They are, according to the data coming out now, ten times more likely to die from suicide than exposure to the COVID-19 virus. This isolation and remote learning is taking a negative toll on our kids and we have to get back to normal with some common sense health and safety guidelines.”
The request points out that a level of safety can be maintained and that outbreaks of COVID-19 can be avoided and mitigated and that grade school, junior high, and high school extracurricular events be allowed to host more fans at gymnasiums or school provided extracurricular space that hosts boys or girls school sanctioned contests.
The letter also states that Illinois has made steady progress toward moving out of Phase 4 COVID-19 mitigations and thousands of students of all ages are back enjoying the previously prohibited extracurricular activities that they love. The concerns that many had prior to the start of previously prohibited extracurricular activities were related to the possibility of uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19 due to close proximity of participants, coaches, athletes, officials, and spectators. After several weeks monitoring resumed extracurricular activities we have learned from school officials involved that there have not been major viral outbreaks resulting from allowing previously prohibited extracurricular activities.
“Twenty-five percent means only one out of every four family members can watch their child or grandchild or sibling compete and participate in sporting events. What a sad situation to say to your mom or dad or grandparents that only one of you can come watch me compete. We have adults flying on airplanes sitting shoulder to shoulder in cramped spaces for hours at a time. If that’s safe enough, then watching your son or daughter play football, basketball, or volleyball inside a gymnasium cannot be more dangerous,” added Rep. Niemerg. “When entire states like Texas are declaring they are back open 100 percent with no mask mandates, the least we can do in Illinois is open back up for our children. This does not mean personal responsibility should be ignored. It should be your choice, not the government’s.”