Weekend rallies by supporters of fall high school sports didn’t convince Gov. JB Pritzker to change his view that contact sports should be postponed until the spring.
At an appearance in Springfield to tout the state’s testing program, Pritzker said he still isn’t convinced high school football, girls volleyball and other contact sports can safely be played at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that’s the case despite Illinois being a leader in testing for COVID-19 which is a key factor in controlling the spread of the disease.
"There are a lot of other things that are at work here other than testing that affect whether or not we would have certain sports available to be played by high schoolers in the fall," he said. "I think they’re (medical experts) concern is that certain sports that are high contact sports are likely to result in the exchange of sweat, saliva and so on on the field and even off the field."
Pritzker said some high school sports are being played that don’t involve direct contact between players such as cross country, swimming, tennis and baseball.
"There’s quite a long list of relatively low risk sports that have been allowed as a result of the decisions by our doctors," he said.
Pritzker remained unswayed by the fact many surrounding states have allowed football and other contact sports to be played at the high school level this fall. He also dismissed the fact the National Football League is two weeks into its season without any large outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus. Professional sports leagues have the resources to do more testing and undertake extensive cleaning of their facilities that are beyond the abilities of most school districts, he said.
He also said now is not the time to relax the state’s efforts at combating the virus.
"The reason we aren’t just letting everything go at this point is because the virus is still out there," he said. "We still have a relatively high positivity rate. It’s lower than our neighbors, that’s true, but there are quite a number of states that have lower positivity rates than we do."
Pritzker announced Monday that Illinois has cleared milestones for testing which is a key to identifying COVID-19 so they can be treated and also asked to isolate so they don’t further spread the virus. Over the weekend, he said, the state reported one-day results of over 74,000 tests.
"That’s a new high for our state," he said.
Also, Illinois is averaging 52,000 tests a day which is the third highest in the nation, behind only California and New York. Finally, on Saturday the state surpassed the five million mark for tests administered.
Pritzker said it all means Illinoisans have more access to testing than people in most other states.
"For families, businesses, schools and churches, that means there’s a measure of safety here in Illinois that doesn’t exist in most other states," he said. "We are by far the best testing state in the Midwest."
On Monday, the Illinois Department of Public Health said there were 1,477 new cases of COVID-19 reported along with seven additional deaths. That brings the statewide totals to 275,735 cases and 8,457 deaths.
IDPH said there are 1,436 people hospitalized with the virus, with 364 of them in intensive care. The statewide positivity rate is 3.5%.
Contact Doug Finke: email@example.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.