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Tarrant County judge says youth sports contributing to spike in COVID-19 cases

Judge Glen Whitley said the weekly sports tournaments need to stop.

Judge Glen Whitley believes youth sports are contributing to the spike in COVID-19 cases, he said during a Tarrant County Commissioners Court meeting.

Whitley said he wished schools and sports associations would look into suspending sports, like football, basketball, softball and baseball. He mentioned how sports have tournaments every weekend and that they need to stop.

“Those are the things I wish would cease right now,” Whitley said. “I do not have the authority. The governor has not allowed us to have the authority to move into that area.”

On Oct. 13, Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja recommended that all schools return to all-virtual learning. Local officials or leaders can't create a mandatory school closure but can share recommendations.

"I wish that the schools would look into the possibility of postponing or suspending the athletic activities at this point in time," Whitley said. "It's time to put the brakes on those until we get past this."

John Abendschan is the football coach and athletic coordinator at Boswell High School in Eagle-Mountain Saginaw and wants kids to keep playing.

“It’s each program, it’s up to them to manage spacing, manage time when kids are together,” Abendschan said. “It’s kind of like walking through a minefield of is it going to hit you or not.”

The district just moved Chisolm Trail High School to all virtual after 450 students had to quarantine.

Abendschan said without the same testing sports leagues have, he has to trust parents and players. 

“It’s not surprising that after Halloween we’re going through this. It’s not surprising,” he said. “I still think it comes down to a school by school choice and basis, so that we can handle what we’re doing.”

Whitley said he wouldn’t order sports to stop even if it could, but numbers are spiking everywhere.

Cook Children’s is seeing record high cases in kids.

“For the youth sports, this is not their life,” Whitley said. “This is something they should be playing to have fun.”

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Tarrant County have continued to increase.

Tarrant County:
Nov. 9: 1,525 new cases
Nov. 8: 456 new cases
Nov. 7: 1,062 new cases
Nov. 6: 952 new cases
Nov. 5: 938 new cases

There are 566 COVID-19 patients in Tarrant County hospitals as of Monday afternoon, according to the county dashboard. That's the highest since Aug. 3 when there were 574 patients.

Of the total cases in the county, 8% have been in people 15 or younger and 19% have been in people 15 to 24 years old.

Recommendations

The county health department has a dashboard that recommends whether schools should be open for in-person, virtual learning or a hybrid of both. On Tuesday, it was red, meaning all schools are recommended for virtual learning because trends were not improving for two weeks.

In the health department's guidance for schools released on Aug. 7, it recommends that youth sports be delayed until community transmission in Tarrant County has fallen to acceptably safe levels for two weeks or more.

There have been multiple football and volleyball games across the area that have been canceled due to COVID-19 in players.

Dallas County health department discourages youth sports in the county's health guidance, which is in the red "stay home, stay safe."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of COVID-19 can be spread differently depending on the type of sports activity.

"If organizations are not able to keep safety measures in place during competition (for example, keeping participants 6 feet apart at all times), they may consider limiting participation to within-team competition only (for example, scrimmages between members of the same team) or team-based practices only," the CDC said.

The CDC outlined risks:

  • Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with members of the same household
  • Increasing Risk: Team-based practice
  • More Risk: Within-team competition
  • Higher Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area (e.g., city or county)
  • Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas (e.g., outside county or state)

Ariel Plascencia contributed to this report.