Coaching Juniors in the time of COVID-19

On 15 May 2021, a fiasco erupted at a juniors volleyball tournament in Colorado. One of the coaches, Dixie Lawless, happens to be a breastfeeding mother, and was barred from entering the facility.

I explained to them that I am the only way she is able to get food, and she can’t go more than 3 hours without eating, let alone 7. They told me it didn’t matter, because “COVID”, no kids under 10 are allowed in the bench.

Since that time, the incidence has blossomed into a debate about the affordances for breastfeeding women, but I draw attention to the scare quotes around the word COVID. Safe and effective vaccination against COVID-19 was approved for adolescents 12-15 years old only 5 days prior to the tournament, and to date (June 2021), remains unavailable for children under the age of 12. Thus, groups of unvaccinated children now represent the most vulnerable population to the disease, and while the risk of death is smaller in children, the effects of the disease can rob an individual (certainly an athlete) a lifetime of health. I highly recommend this piece by Edward Nirenberg and Risa Hoshino – that the calculus of risk is very different for children, and should not be minimized:

We must also consider multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a post-COVID-19 syndrome of the pediatric population, with a far greater risk of morbidity and mortality, including — perhaps most ominously — heart dysfunction. Disquietingly, the antecedent infections that result in MIS-C are frequently asymptomatic and the condition presents suddenly 4 to 6 weeks later. Of the documented cases in the U.S., approximately 1% have been fatal.

(Emphasis mine)

Children represent the emerging reservoir of viral proliferation and COVID-19 patients, but unlike adults, rely on us to help manage the pandemic. Nonpharmaceutical interventions, like masking, and frequent hand washing, should be practiced among kids indoors to cut the spread between them, but more importantly, all (barring a medical reason) adults should be vaccinated, specially ones who supervise or come in contact with children. This helps protect the vulnerable population by cutting off paths of infection, and decreases proliferation of SARS-COV-2 (reducing the chances of a variant that can escape the current vaccines). If this sounds familiar – this is herd immunity. And it requires almost no effort or cost to maintain.

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