Chesney Guest Column: Let’s Play Ball- Bipartisan Legislators and Educators Request Increased Capacity for Extracurriculars

Joining a bipartisan coalition of legislators and educators, I signed on to a letter to Governor JB Pritzker this past week requesting a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions at K-12 extracurricular events to allow for increasing audience capacity to 25%. While I favor much higher capacity thresholds, it was the art of compromise that allowed us to receive this sweeping bipartisan support and to communicate such unity to the Governor.

The Illinois High School Association, the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Association of School Administrators, Illinois Association of Athletic Directors, and Illinois Principal’s Association also signed on to the letter and support allowing 25% fan and audience capacity at extracurricular events. The letter, which contains the signature of both Republican and Democrat legislators from all corners of the state, reads in part:

“We have learned from conversations with school officials involved with the planning and execution of hosting extracurricular activities that there have in fact not been major viral outbreaks resulting from allowing previously prohibited extracurricular activities. We believe this is due to the unprecedented effort of local school officials and athletes to take the steps necessary to keep everyone safe.”

“Seniors in high school have now had their final two years in school interrupted by the pandemic. Parents and siblings have missed out on memories too many to count, and too precious to ignore,” the letter continues.

In my assessment, this is yet another example of Governor Pritzker not following the science. More than the two-week incubation period has passed since sports were allowed with no major outbreaks. Perfectly healthy people that are physically distanced from one another or who live within the same household should certainly be allowed to watch their loved ones play in-person.

Operation Warp Speed under President Trump allowed the development of COVID vaccines at a rate we have never seen in world history. Distribution of said vaccines has been slower. Just this week, e-mails became public of Illinois Democrat Congressional staffers urging Governor Pritzker’s Chief of Staff to find a way to blame “Trump Hangover” instead of President Joe Biden and Governor Pritzker for the inefficiencies in vaccine distribution and the fact Illinois is now among the ten worst states in vaccine distribution.

In school extracurricular activities, we have another example of the politics trumping the science at the hands of this Democrat Administration. This letter attracted bipartisan support because more legislators understand this Administration is not following the science as closely as those legislators would like to begin a safe return to normalcy.

While the “hangover” of the past year is beginning to fade, the public is beginning to understand that different approaches to governing this crisis yielded vastly different results. In some cases, what was hailed as a heroic response (think New York Governor Andrew Cuomo) instead cost lives, while the “incompetence of yesterday” is now seen as “light-speed” reaction when compared to slow vaccine distribution and returns to normalcy once promised as “ten days to slow the curve” approaches one year and counting.

The letter to the Governor concludes “by taking this action immediately, you can help families make memories that would otherwise be lost and ease public pressure on school districts and local officials.”

In other words…let the public watch our loved ones play ball in-person safely.