COVID spike may stall push for return of organized sports

COVID spike may stall push for return of organized sports

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - There’s been a push to allow more organized team sports on Oahu -- especially for high school athletes who’ve seen their seasons canceled.

But even a move to allow outdoor practices could be on hold -- due to spiking numbers.

That’s the feeling of Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who took part in an online panel on how soon sports can be allowed again.

Making his first appearance before constituents since his Jan. 2 inauguration, Blangiardi said he would like to get organized sports going sooner than Tier 4 of the city’s reopening plan, which could be months away.

“On Wednesday I would have told you I wanted to be more aggressive,” said Blangiardi. I wanted to push some with the tier system, I wanted to push on getting our kids out.”

But the mayor said the triple-digit case numbers of the past two days have changed his thinking, for now.

“Whether or not this is the anticipated spike post-holidays, or whether this is the beginning of a third surge -- none of this is for certain right now -- but what we’ve asked to do is to be very cautious,” he said.

Right now on Oahu, permitted team sports aren’t allowed, and unpermitted team sports are supposed to be capped at five people. That’s more restrictive than some other counties, such as Kauai, where permits have been issued for some organized sports.

“We required them to come up with a safety plan as well to ensure that they have all the hygiene protocols, social distancing, safety protocols for players and coaches,” said Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami.

In Hawaii County parks, Mayor Mitch Roth said, “Outdoors, I believe you can have up to 25 people at one time for a contact sport. And those are sports where you can expect to have contact. That could be basketball, rugby, football.”

But that number includes officials and spectators.

This year’s fall and winter sports have already been canceled for most high schoolers.

“People always tell me, ‘Well if you had a kid, how would you feel if you canceled sports?’ Well, I do have a kid and he lost his spring season, his junior season last year, and I do not want him to lose his senior season this year,” said HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun.

“On our island we don’t have organized basketball,” said Konawaena High School head girls basketball coach Bobbie Awa. “Our gyms are closed, our outdoor courts -- we aren’t allowed to do scrimmages.”

Experts and others say kids are missing out on the benefits of sports.

“Obviously the physical activity, but also without question there’s improvement in immunity, but there’s also a benefit in terms of mental health,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ignacio, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine.

Blangiardi said he’s open to adjusting the tier system to at least allow more athletic gatherings when the case numbers go down.

“Irrespective of my passion and my love, and even my want to be aggressive in getting our kids back out to play, job one right now is public safety,” he said.

Honolulu City Council member Andria Tupola, who hosted the online discussion, is introducing a resolution aimed at moving organized sports to Tier 2 or 3. A public hearing will be held Tuesday at 1 p.m.

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