Madison County leaders: Playing fall sports important, but has risks during pandemic

Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said sports could cause an outbreak of coronavirus cases.

Posted: Jul 27, 2020 7:06 PM
Updated: Jul 27, 2020 7:27 PM

Monday, as high schools athletes start practice and major league baseball postpones games due to coronavirus, we asked local leaders if they think it’s safe and worth the risk.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers both said they know how important sports are to the community, but Spillers said with sports in play there is a risk for an outbreak of cases.

"I think a lot of us almost feel sports are essential, but they're not," Battle said.

Battle explained he's looking to health care leaders in the community to help school districts determine if sports are safe.

Spillers said Monday there are no school-aged children in the hospital in Madison County with coronavirus currently.

"I think it's very possible you'll see outbreaks of people who get COVID in that age group from team sports," he said.

Contact sports could change how many kids get sick by a lack of being able to follow health guidelines, Spillers explained.

"Anybody playing sports is going to be at risk, just like any other person who is not socially separating and (wearing) a mask, so I think they're at risk for getting COVID," he said.

The hospital’s infectious disease expert Dr. Ali Hassoun said last week that high school sports should not be played during the coronavirus pandemic.

Spillers knows the decision is up to schools and, ultimately, families.

"Families who have children who are going to play team sports need to determine if they're willing to accept the risk of somebody getting COVID from a team sport," he said.

While students who attend all three public school districts in Madison County will only learn online the first nine weeks, both said making the decision if sports should be allowed isn't an easy one.

"I would love nothing better than to see team sports happen this fall. I'll leave it up to our health officials to determine if it should happen or if it should not," Battle said.

"Telling a senior in high school he's not going to play football this year might be as devastating as getting COVID and staying at home for two weeks, so I think everyone's has got to look at that risk and determine whether they're willing to accept that or not," Spillers added.

None of the three school districts in Madison County have released what their plans are for sports this fall. Madison County schools said it is meeting in the next few days to discuss education, sports, and all things returning to school.

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