Stamford Advocate

Lamont, athletes form team vs. COVID


It’s about time Gov. Ned Lamont addressed Connecticu­t’s high school athletes directly. One of the lasting images of a year ago was of hundreds of athletes gathering in Hartford to protest the cancellati­on of the fall scholastic season. On that day, the governor’s office and athletes were at opposite ends of the field.

In that context, Lamont’s Tuesday rally of high school students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 sounded like a locker room pep talk. Lamont and students finally seem to be on the same team.

Fittingly, the governor chose New Britain’s Veterans Stadium, which is pretty much at the 50-yard line of Connecticu­t. And he wisely brought along athletes and leaders from the Connecticu­t Interschol­astic Athletic Conference, since Lamont’s name is hardly synonymous with sports.

Such pep talks, of course, usually occur when your team is behind on the scoreboard at halftime. Connecticu­t has spent much of the pandemic ahead of the rest of the nation in tackling COVID-19, and no one wants to ponder the grim possibilit­y that we are only halfway through this. But as Lamont observed at the end of the event, “COVID has its own timetable.”

Before Lamont spoke, Xavier High School football and baseball star Drew Kron told peers, “We want to assure not only we have a full season, but also a normal school year . ... I encourage you to sign up (to be vaccinated) and stay in the game.”

The fall 2021 season is on the schedule, and Lamont’s initiative is the best strategy to keep it that way. Long before COVID became part of the daily lexicon, it was common to refer to teenagers as thinking of themselves as invincible. The pandemic cruelly and relentless­ly reminds us that no one is. Even worse, it continues to demonstrat­e that even the healthiest of individual­s can transmit the disease to a loved one, or a stranger.

Plenty of defeats have delivered cautionary tales. A Centers for Disease Control report revealed that a pair of high school wrestling tournament­s in Florida in December had 30 percent of the 130 athletes, coaches and officials test positive for the virus. One died.

Last season, the NFL listed more than 300 players on the COVID-19 injured reserve list (at least one from every team). With this season set to kick off in a few weeks, some 92 percent of NFL players have had at least one dose of the vaccine. They do have motivation­s high-schoolers do not, including the threat of a $14,650 fine.

Lamont & Co. are simply appealing to families to use common sense, calling on athletes who are 12 years old and over to get vaccinated. There will be some restrictio­ns, including a mask mandate for indoor sports (with the exception of swimmers once they enter the pool).

The clock won’t run out by itself on this game. It will take teamwork, and every student can put a point on the board. As Lamont said in addressing the students directly, “Step up, we really need you to do it.”

The fall 2021 season is on the schedule, and Lamont’s initiative is the best strategy to keep it that way.

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