Wear a Mask to Save College Sports

It is safe to say that the last six months have been tough on everyone. We’ve had to endure through a global pandemic. We’ve had to completely restructure our lives and make some uncomfortable changes. We’re all looking for any return to normalcy that we can get, even as the death toll in the U.S. quickly approaches 200,000.

We’re constantly looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and sports is a great indicator of how visible that light really is. Unfortunately, it is simply not safe or responsible to hold super-spreader events like college sports on campuses where COVID-19 is likely already spreading among the student body.

Many in the world of college sports agree. On August 27, John Brown University announced the postponement of all athletic competition until at least January 2021, and many schools have taken similar actions. Because of how prevalent COVID-19 has shown to be on numerous college campuses only a few weeks into reopening, there’s a high probability that college sports won’t happen anywhere this fall. 

This is a major disappointment for many people. Student-athletes are losing time to play the sport they love at a competitive level. Coaches are losing valuable time to develop their players as athletes and as young men and women. People like myself, who use college sports to further ourselves in the jam-packed field of sports media, are losing opportunities to further ourselves with our work.

I would like to see college sports return as soon as possible, but they need to be safe. For a truly safe return, the prevalence of COVID-19 across the U.S. needs to be a lot lower than it is now. The simplest way we can help lower the prevalence is to wear a mask.

Despite early skepticism, there is growing evidence that masks work as a preventative measure. In July, researchers at Brigham Young University analyzed over 115 studies on the effectiveness of masks, and they concluded that “masks could be one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to stop COVID-19 and accelerate the economic recovery”.

Real-life examples go a long way in proving the efficacy of masks, too. An outbreak at a Starbucks café in Paju, South Korea spared at least four mask-wearing employees, despite infecting dozens of customers. A June study from Health Affairs also found that mask mandates led to a slowdown in the daily growth rate in the fifteen states where they were in place at the time, estimating that up to 450,000 cases may have been prevented.

Masks primarily serve to protect people around the wearer, but increasing in popularity is the belief that masks protect the wearer as well. Monica Gandhi, a virus expert at the University of California, San Francisco stated that wearing even a cloth mask reduces the number of droplets that make contact with the wearer. Gandhi also noted that less exposure usually means less severity of the disease.

Despite the evidence and the general scientific consensus that masks and face coverings work, it is still a hotly contested topic in the U.S. A big reason why is because the U.S. has been a victim of constant mixed messaging. Early on in the pandemic, many important, influential public figures tried to minimize the impact that the virus had on those it infected. Others made efforts at sowing discord and breeding public distrust of the medical community. The way we have handled the pandemic in the U.S. has been extremely flawed. We can only right the ship with a change in our approach and mindset.

I confidently believe that John Brown University will be able to stay open this semester. I am confident that our community will sense the urgency of the situation, and I think we will do a great job looking out for each other in preserving our common interest of staying open. We know that in order to return to normal, we must accept this mindset.

Many people across the country have taken the self-centered approach. They have carried around with them a laundry list of reasons why they cannot or will not follow even the simplest COVID-19 preventative measures. These same people will then act shocked when their actions lead to the nation having struggles in returning to normalcy. I ask those that still follow the self-centered approach to take a look in the mirror and decide if you want to continue being part of the reason why the U.S. has not been able to achieve a return to normalcy, or if you want to be a part of the solution that will help accelerate the recovery of this nation.              

With that recovery, college sports will return, and it will be a triumphant return that I am looking forward to being a part of.

Photo: Brooke Baldwin, The Threefold Advocate