Sports, spring break, and the virus

The COVID-19 exchange between two of the most vulnerable states in the country is in full bloom.

Half the state of Michigan is packing its COVID-19 and its variants and heading to Florida to share with those good folks. In return, Floridians, who are filling the bars and restaurants to the gills and doing it without masks, will return the favor by sharing with Michiganians their COVID-19 and, after spring break, everyone can sit back and count the cases in both states.

OK, that is a tad of hyperbole, but, in two weeks, we’ll find out how far off the mark this yearly migration was visa-vis the spread of the deadly virus that has a tight grip on both states as it is.

And that cross-state-pollination, if you will, could not come at a worse time. It would be one thing if we had 70% of the populations in both states inoculated. It would be one thing if our hospitals were not on the verge of another influx of younger patients filling more hospital beds and intensive care units than are available. And it would be one thing if 15% of the folks tested did not turn up positive.

But it is all of those things, with one more. Use the word “surge” or not, Michigan is number-one — and not on the basketball court. Last week, the Great Lakes State recorded the highest average weekly cases in the nation.

And, in another twist, when the governor reopened contact sports, she ordered an aggressive testing program for students and coaches before practice and before games. The intent was obvious: to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students who had not been given the shots.

That program started last week, but a group of parents hauled the governor into court to block the testing, in part because, according to the lawsuit, “for more than a year student-athletes have endured unilateral orders executed by Executive branch officials severely restricting the free association (of students and restricting them) from playing sports.”

The Let Them Play coalition argues the governor did not have the authority to impose the testing program on their children. But critics might argue the governor was just trying to keep those very children coronavirus-free, and, yet, the parents appear to be more interested in arguing about whether she had the power to do that.

With regard to the public safety of all school kids, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and others have already strongly suggested that school districts that have students returning home from the South should consider keeping all of them home for a week.

The dire warnings from her, state health officials, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to travel over this break fell on millions of deaf ears. Everybody knows Michigan folks go to Florida, and, while many last year at the outset of pandemic stayed home, by golly, they were not going to do it two years in a row.

After all, that is who we are.

And, while the Floridians will make sure none of the residents from around here are allowed into the vaccine line down there, they will gladly rake in billions of dollars that all those northerners unload, and, if a few more cases of COVID-19 is the price you pay, so be it.

All of that only underscores the harsh reality that Michigan is not anywhere near eradicating the virus.

The governor likes to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we are still in the tunnel.

And, you might add, if citizens ignore the data, that light at the end of the tunnel will be harder and harder to see.


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