SINTON – With high school football practice kicking off last week in San Patricio County, Health Authority of San Patricio County Dr. James Mobley has been working with the districts’ superintendents to make sure sports can begin as safely as possible. But that still may not be enough.
On Aug. 3, Mobley spoke at commissioners court and began by quoting Driscoll Children’s Hospital Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Jaime Fergie — who he worked with for 30 years — at last week’s commissioners court hearing by saying, “I want to give a message of reassurance to the parents in relationship to the health of the children. The children are not the ones responsible for spreading this illness. If they get sick with COVID-19 they almost never get very sick.”
Mobley continued, “So once again, children are very low risk which is exactly what the data I have shows.”
Larger school athletic programs, such as the one in Gregory-Portland ISD, will be delayed until September. Districts such as Sinton, Refugio, Taft, Odem-Edroy, Woodsboro, Mathis and Austwell-Tivoli began practice on Aug. 3.
The risk mitigation guidelines released by the organization call for schools to limit capacity at all events to 50 percent as well as mandate the use of face coverings by all spectators and attendees.
The first day of games for all football teams in 1A through 4A is Aug. 27.
The season for schools in 5A and 6A was pushed back by more than a month by the UIL.
The modification will also require changes to the postseason, which will now begin on Dec. 10 with state championship games in the state’s two largest classifications now being held on Jan. 11, 2021.
The entire plan released by the UIL is subject to change based on state and local ordinances.
“With regard to UIL, there have certainly been people, myself included, that believe this may lead to an increase in the number of cases,” Mobley said.
He added that when he was a child he and his friends were always outside playing football, basketball and other sports completely unsupervised but at school they will be under constant supervision which would be safer. He said that children need to have an outlet for their energy one way or another so it’s better to have them in a supervised area.
“Sports and competition activities are critical for development of young people,” Mobley continued. “Very important. It is absolutely my opinion, but I think it’s important to have a wide open discussion on this to arrive at the best conclusion.
San Patricio County Judge David Krebs asked Dr. Mobley if he had heard about a year-round school in Louisiana with 10 percent of their cases being children and a school in Georgia that started sports but then had numerous cases come out of that.
That school in Georgia had about 260 employees in 141 facilities in Gwinnett County kept from work after an in-person meeting the day before.
Mobley said, “What I can tell you is that so far we’ve been wrong about everything, so we may as well find out that the data we have so far is completely wrong and children may be more vulnerable.”
Krebs added, “I agree that we need to get the children back into school and get them learning but UIL probably needs to wake up.
“What their number one concern should be is the safety of those UIL athletes. They want Texas football to get going again, I get it, but they’re acting like they’re not paying any attention to (safety) right now.”
It seems as though Krebs’ concerns were warranted because not long after the meeting was over, Taft ISD annpounced that one of their students who was at football practice tested positive for COVID-19 and whoever was present was going to have to self quarantine for 14 days. The future of Greyhound football – and possibly throughout the county – remains uncertain.
Paul Gonzales is a reporter at The News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.