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I hope that things are at least stabilized when it comes to COVID-19 and how it affects everything, including sports.

It’s a month away ... but then again, it’s a month away. Time goes fast.

With the coronavirus spreading like wildfire in the south and southeast, it’s been very difficult to contain this respiratory illness that has killed more than 135,000 people and sickened more than 3 million people. That’s to say the least, especially with this wave.

So can it be contained in a month? Really doubtful. (Yes, I know even that that sounds optimistic; I’m a wait-and-see type of guy, though.) Maybe slowed, but it’s hard to imagine it being contained or at least controlled to a point where we can feel comfortable going about life like it used to be, sports included. Remember, in March and April, when the first lockdowns happened, it took six weeks to two months – maybe longer in some cases – for the curve to begin to flatten.

I guess that Dr. Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control was on to something when he said that mask wearing could – if everyone does it – crush the spread within about six to eight weeks.

That all said, college football is in a state of waiting (my term) as of right now. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have both indicated conference-only schedules will be the norm. Rumors of what may happen with the Big 12, ACC and SEC are just that at this point and I’d rather not comment on what they may do until an official announcement comes.

But on conference only football ... uh, while I think that some in-state games could have gone off without a hitch, the conference-only path is in the end the best and really the only option. This allows for flexibility, as the commissioners have said.

And conference-only may well be the only way we get college football. Indeed, if that’s what we get, we’d really better be thankful for what we do get, because this will be a challenge in and of itself to play the game without risks of spreading the illness.

Volleyball and cross country – I’m no health expert, but personally I don’t see those same kinds of challenges. Yes, you’re sharing a ball in volleyball, but you’re not in everyone’s face for every play like in football. Cross country you can spread out for a bit, and teams and runners can stagger start times and the starting games can be spread out a bit.

Football is the big elephant in the room right now.

Can fall sports be pulled off this fall?

Yes? No? Maybe?

I’m nothing but an armchair quarterback (no pun intended) ... so really that’s a question the conference commissioners, coaches and health experts must get together to decide.

They’d better do so, quickly and decisively.

Until then, wear a mask, social distance and don’t do anything foolish.

As far as high school softball and baseball in Iowa have gone, I hear a lot of people are amazed that things went off as well as they did.

I guess you can call things a mixed success. That’s considering that somewhere around 30 programs in each sport were affected at one point or another during the regular season. None of our News-Telegraph area teams were directly affected as far as we’ve heard, but some teams from our conferences had scares and at least two – IKM-Manning from the Western Iowa Conference, Woodbine from the Rolling Valley – lost anywhere from 10 to 14 days and all games included in that span, but were able to return.

I really feel for the teams that did end up having to call off their seasons due to late-coming positive results. I know of at least four Iowa Class 4A baseball teams where the coronavirus delivered the knockout blow: Dubuque Senior, Muscatine, Southeast Polk and West Des Moines Dowling. None have been sent home in Class 3A, which is Atlantic’s class, but five each in classes 1A and 2A – none of them in districts involving area teams – are done. About the same number are sidelined for the year in softball across the five classes.

But it’s been interesting to note how COVID-19 has spread to the teams. And it isn’t happening during games.

Christine Petersen, the Director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa, told the Des Moines Register last week that spreading the illness has likely been due to contracting the illness in everyday life – i.e., off the field – and then exposing their teammates.

The moral has been, and continues to be if teams want to finish the season with a state championship game – and play this fall, for that matter – following proper safety procedures, social distancing, staying home if you’re sick and wearing masks.

Dr. Redfield is making more and more sense these days, and it’s advice Petersen is echoing.

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