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Earlier this month, Michihiko Goto, assistant professor of infectious diseases at Iowa and a member of Iowa’s Infection Prevention Research Group, spoke about the risk of the spread of COVID-19 during outdoor sporting events.

In an interview published June 5 in the Des Moines Register, Goto – along wtih several of his colleagues – said the risk of spread was “minimal.”

Yet, he opined that Iowa was not ready to take the step of bringing back high school sports and told the Register he was “very nervous.” Even though Iowa couldn’t continue in a lockdown situation forever, he cited Iowa’s coronoavirus cases per capita being – as of the first week of June – 11th highest in the country (643 cases per 100,000 residents, according to John Hopkins University, which has been providing data on COVID-19 from the very start) and that infections may occur on buses or locker rooms.

In other words, Iowa should be a follower and not a leader.

“(W)e have to do it safely and proceed safely, too. And the situation in Iowa is actually not as optimistic as many people do think,” he said.

With that all said, southwest Iowa has been relatively lucky. A team must go on a 14-day quarantine if someone on the team – a player or coach – has been confirmed with the respiratory illness. As of Saturday, six teams from across Iowa have had to call sports off because of this.

But what’s it really mean? After all, none of the News-Telegraph coverage area’s teams have been impacted – knock on wood that continues to be the case – but two teams from area conferences have had to deal with it. Woodbine of the Rolling Valley Conference lost several games after someone tested positive. Carroll Kuemper Catholic, Atlantic’s fellow team from the Hawkeye Ten, had a coach test positive before the season began, although the Knights have gotten all their games in.

But again, what’s it really mean?

I guess to really get an idea, look at the world of college sports.

The news that 30 players from Louisiana State University were quarantined because they either tested positive or had contact with someone who did would probably give the idea. This is one of the nation’s most successful programs, and look at what happened ... a real crisis.

Yes, these are young men, ages 18 through (probably) 22 or 23 years old and in good health and excellent shape. They’ll likely recover quickly and be able to get back to the grind.

Just like high school athletes, who are in the 14-to-18-year-old range. Good, healthy young men and women. Their coaches have a much more diverse range of ages, from their early 20s to well into their 50s and (perhaps) 60s, which is a little more worrysome.

Even two of the major Iowa universities – the University of Iowa and Iowa State University – weren’t immune. Both schools had at least 10 cases. Several other programs from Kansas to Texas to Clemson have had double-digit case counts, too.

I know there have been suggestions some of the college football players were at various taverns and nightclubs when they became exposed, but I’ll defer judgment on that. After all, many players could have been asymptomatic all this time or gotten it from family or others they’ve had contact with. And you can’t blame contact drills, as these haven’t happened yet.

But it’s like many editorials are stating. The Lafayette Daily Advertister’s Glenn Gullbeau – in an op-ed re-published in the USA Today – quoted the great Yogi Berra’s most famous quote: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” He also cited Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases regarding the pandemic, and his interview published in the Wall Street Journal last week: “People keep talking about a second wave. We’re still in a first wave.”

Meaning, it’s not over. Not by a long shot.

Experts and others are urging everyone to wear a mask when out an about. That it shouldn’t be a political statement but a show of courtesy and caring for others.

A Des Moines Register poll, however, did suggest that somehow, a simple act of showing regard for the other guy’s health was politically divided. Meaning, more Democrats are likely to wear face masks than Republicans.

I agree totally ... it’s not a political act. And I admit I’ve not always been good at wearing a mask myself, putting one on only a handful of times, although for me it’s not anything but forgetting to.

Maybe I’m lucky, but when is my luck going to run out?

When is your luck going to run out?

Again, our area teams have dodge the bullet called COVID-19. Six schools statewide have not, and were as a result to suspend either baseball or softball (or both) for 14 days. Even in a normal season, that’s a significant part of the season, but in a pandemic-shortened season, that’s more than half, maybe two-thirds of your season wiped out.

I know that Fauci has suggested there may not be a football season unless a long list of precautions are being taken. While that may or may not be true, I would guess all levels, from the Iowa High School Athletic Association (and other state athletic organizations) to college to the NFL have discussed procedures and policies behind the scenes. The handbooks that will result, I’m sure, will be quite thick. Someone suggested in another editorial I read that the NBA’s return-to-play handbook is some 108 pages long!

The outbreaks that are happening on college campuses, including Iowa, ISU, LSU – the latter the model of football success as of late – and elsewhere in the country are very concerning.

But while it’s never a good time to have COVID-19, I suppose it’s better to have the outbreak now and have all the players healthy in time for workouts and practice, in time for a Labor Day start to football.

But again, the idea of all the editorials I’m reading is echoed by Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Wear your mask and be careful out there.

Because it appears that “normal, everyday life” – sports included – and COVID-19 will have to co-exist for the time being.

* * *

As far as Berra and his iconic quote and Gullbeau’s editorial:

I find it incredible that Berra coined one of baseball’s most famous quotes in my lifetime!

He apparently made his statement in 1973 when, as manager of the New York Mets, he was talking about his team was going to rally from a 12-1/2 game deficit in the National League East.

Surely enough, the Mets rallied to win the NL East by 1-1/2 over St. Louis and made the World Series, where the eventually lost to the Oakland A’s in seven games.

Guess the World Series wasn’t over until it was over, either.

Here’s hoping that there will be a World Series in 2020. It appears that, thanks to Rob Manfred, the games will go on. Sixty regular-season games is all, but under the circumstances I’ll take it.

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to sports@ant-news.com or phone (712) 243-2624.