Health officials warn Oklahoma indoor sports will increase risk of infection as cases surge

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As indoor sports get underway, health officials are offering warnings and precaution suggestions as school districts across the state make plans for practice and games.

When asked if she believed going forward with indoor sports at this point in the pandemic is safe, Dr. Mary Clarke said, “It’s not worth, in my opinion, risking someone’s life, but that’s what I do everyday. I try to mitigate any risks that I possibly can, so of course from a health professional I’m going to see it that way.”

Indoor sports are starting as coronavirus numbers surge worse than they have at any time since the pandemic began.

On Friday, the CDC noted in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that an outbreak was discovered at an amateur hockey game in Florida after one of the players tested positive.

He didn’t show symptoms until two days after the game.

“They then did contact tracing and out of that group they found that eight of that person’s team members tested positive, five out of the eleven members of the other team tested positive, and one of the people that actually ran the ice rink tested positive,” said OU’s Chief Covid Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler. “What it highlighted again was some of the concerns of contact or close sports.”

Dr. Bratzler pointed out that professional sports leagues, and even some college conferences can afford to test their athletes daily or multiple times a week, a luxury not shared by high schools and middle schools.

“It doesn’t seem like you might, hockey might be contact, or soccer might be contact, but they are because at periods of time, they are in close contact, it’s just not the whole time,” said Dr. Mary Clarke with the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

She also explained that some studies show that when athletes are exerting themselves and have a high respiratory rate, it increases the traveling distance of aerosolized viral particles.

It’s unlikely athletes will be asked to wear masks while they’re actively in a game, but many school districts are putting together plans.

“Everybody must get a temperature check before they come in, everyone must wear a mask  during the whole time, and social distancing is in place,” said Oklahoma City Public Schools Athletic Director Todd Dilbeck.

He said after conferring with health officials, the district decided fans will only be allowed in high school auditoriums, which are larger, and only at 25%.

“I strongly believe in what our team is doing,” Dilbeck said. “I feel like we have taken the protocols probably above and beyond any other district in the state of Oklahoma because of the welfare of our children.”

Dr. Clarke said having fewer people around is better, but for the protection of kids, and especially the older loved ones they come into contact with, skipping indoor sports this season is the safest option.

“Eventually things will, we will probably be able to be on the backside, and things will hopefully be able to return to normal. That’s our expectation,” Dr. Clarke said.  “It’s just different right now, and I just don’t think it’s worth risking any of our family’s lives on it.”

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