We are in the middle of a life-threatening pandemic across this Country and world. It has affected every aspect of our lives. I think the decision to play winter sports at this time is wrong. Roanoke’s infection rate for the virus is at an all-time high. The metrics indicates that it is not a good idea to play basketball. The medical doctors, or at least those in charge of Roanoke-Alleghany Health Districts, oppose the playing of basketball. Dr. Molly O’Dell, M.D., Medical Director at Virginia Department of Health says “no”, and Dr. Cynthia B. Morrow, M.D., MPH, Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, says “no”, and yet the Roanoke Valley Public School Administrations and the School Boards approves the participation. There is a record number of COVID-19 cases nationally, in Virginia and locally, record number of hospitalizations. There is a new variant present in the United States is far more contagious and our Health Department needs to focus on vaccine programs, not dealing with outbreaks. Even if you remain safe, students (who may be asymptomatic) can carry and transmit to adult family members.
There is extensive documentation for reasons schools should not be participating in indoor sports, and I personally have difficulty with school administrations and the school board members allowing this to happen. Let me say, no one is a bigger fan and supporter of sports and athletics than I; my background has proven this. Not only have I officiated football and basketball at the scholastic and collegiate level, I have also sponsored for the Lea Winter Classic Basketball tournament for many of our schools in the valley and I have also been instrumental in bringing college football to the City of Roanoke and the City of Salem.
I respect those school divisions around the State who have chosen not to participate in winter sports recognizing the danger it poses, to not only the student athletics, but to teachers, parents, grandparents, and guardians.
As mayor, I love all students, want them to enjoy their educational experience, and wish no harm upon any of them. As we can see in the sports world every day, there are postponements of college and professional games because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and there are even colleges and universities who have cancelled their season entirely. There are times when we have to tell children “no.” I know it is tough because I have three grandchildren who are student athletes who love the sport, their coaches, and teammates; however, I am deeply concerned for their health and safety.
I would urge the governing bodies of local schools to reevaluate their position and empathize with so many families who have lost loved ones to the horrific Coronavirus.
Lea is the mayor of Roanoke.