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Advocate for Sports Even With Omicron Out There

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Advocate for Sports Even With Omicron Out There

When we wrote a recent article about guarding against knee-jerk shutdowns we received a lot of support from professionals who are involved with at-risk kids, but we didn't expect to have to address this topic again so quickly.

Don't Let Them Shut Kids Up Again

Our message in the previous article was essentially, when there's a problem like the COVID pandemic again, don't let them shut kids indoors away from their activities and their social circle. Don't let it happen again. A few weeks later there's a chance it happens again.

Yes many are now changing their tune about shutting down schools, but we have to stay vigilant. Playing sports and letting kids play outside is hugely important for their overall health, both physically and mentally. To pretend otherwise is abusive.

We have some other observations about what's going on that you might wish to consider. Some of this is data-driven, some of this is just our observations:

1. On a recent airplane flight this writer observed a loving mother with her infant child on the same flight. It became clear that the child was deaf, and while very quiet the kid continued to look around and engage with the other passengers, especially as we waited to deplane. But if got me to wondering how difficult it would be for that child, or deaf toddlers, to grow up in a place where everyone was masked, making it impossible to lip read or understand facial expressions. That also reminded me of when I was raising a young child, and how human faces were considered very important in helping children understand the world they live in. Masking those faces didn't help that.

2. The COVID Omicron Variant is, we're told, much more contagious than other variants, and that has been borne out in recent reports that a majority of the cases in the US are now Omicron cases. But is it dangerous? Now here's where the data gets weird. Initial data and reports were that Omicron was far less severe than the original COVID strain or the much-ballyhooed Delta variant.

Then we saw this article. Omicron Infections Appear No Less Severe than Delta — so this is what we'd suggest with regard to this linked article from Reuters ... read it, rather than run for the hills because of the headline. Because it quotes a study from Imperial College, London that says there is "no evidence of Omicron having lower severity than Delta, judged by either the proportion of people testing positive who report symptoms, or by the proportion of cases seeking hospital care after infection."

Look at how they're measuring severity. Not death. Not going to the ICU. Not even being hospitalized. They judge severity on people seeking hospital care, or people showing symptoms. That's a pretty low bar. If "showing symptoms" means it's severe, then that means it's severe for millions and millions of people.

What we do know is that only a very small number of people have died from Omicron, and we have been given no information on those poor peoples' age or comorbidities. 

We also know that while cases (meaning positive tests) are indeed shooting up, hospitalizations are not rising by the same rate (cases up 100% from a few weeks ago, hospitalizations up 40%). Trips to the ICU are flat, and deaths are flat or falling.

These are the charts you can see if you just google "COVID"

By the way this trend is reflected throughout countries that track hospitalizations—most of those are in Europe.
The major difference is that in some countries the number of cases has already peaked and crashed sharply.

3. Kids are still not the problem. Of the almost 800,000 deaths with COVID in the United States, only 655 have been suffered by children 17 or younger. That's 0.08% of all deaths. For those aged 18-29, deaths in that age group account for only 0.6% of total US deaths. For 30-39 it's 1.8%. (Source: CDC) But, you ask, because you're right to question the numbers and examine them, how does that jibe with how many kids or young people are testing positive? Many kids have been sheltered from the pandemic, no?

According to Statistica, about 6.5 million kids have tested positive, meaning that COVID has a 99.99% survival rate among kids. For adults 18-29, the survival rate it 99.95%. For those 30-39, it's 99.8%.

This is not a disease that targets young people, especially young, healthy people.

4. According to the CDC, one of the top comorbidities for young people is obesity—once again pointing to the need to allow outside recreation for anyone who wishes to combat this disease. 

5. What people say and what the evidence shows doesn't always come together. The main argument for enforcing rules on children is that they could spread it to grandpa and grandma and those older people are vulnerable. OK, then those kids who live with their grandparents can opt out of things, rather than making everyone stop playing or schooling in person. (By the way, how will making those kids live with grandma and grandpa all day long help them?)

But have we seen any data on this? Are older people getting COVID of any variant from young people? The data, if it were there, would have been trumpeted far and wide. It's not trumpeted at all, except in hypotheticals, because it's likely not happening. 

6. We keep seeing commercials urging people who have certain symptoms to go see their doctor. The problem, you see, is that the fear has become so strong about COVID—rhetoric that makes it appear that it's a death sentence when the mortality rate in the USA is 1.6% (and probably lower as there are likely still asymptomatic people who don't get tested)—that people with other health problems aren't going to the doctor. There's even a website, notimetowait.com (run by the Pfizer drug company) that is basically a massive admission that other health problems are becoming an issue because people are still being told to stay home. 

All of this is to say that the rugby community should fight for the right to play. There is no evidence that playing outside, even a high-contact sport like rugby, makes it easier to spread COVID or makes those players more vulnerable. Arm yourself with facts. Acknowledge that Omicron is indeed spreading quickly, but the number of flu deaths for kids in the 2019-2020 flu season was 486 (Statistica), comparable to the 655 in 21 months of COVID (tracks to 374 for 12 months), and we didn't send kids home or shut their schools or teams or other activities down. 

If they try to do that again, we should fight it.