ILLINOIS (WAND) - Gov. JB Pritzker adamantly turned down the idea of resuming postponed high school sports early when asked about it in a Tuesday press conference.
This comes as IHSA coaches, athletes, parents and fans plan to participate in "Let Us Play" rallies on Saturday, Sept. 19 in Chicago and Springfield. These groups want to see sports such as football return, as it, boys soccer and girls volleyball were moved to the spring of 2021.
In July, the IHSA deferred to the governor, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Board of Education on when the decision can be made to resume these seasons. They have since sent a letter to the governor seeking control of these events back.
Pritzker opposes the return of sports at this time.
“I’m not willing to sacrifice people’s lives or their health — neither the children nor their parents who would be affected also,” Pritzker said. “We’re being careful about it, but I’m relying on doctors and researchers to give us the information. This isn’t a political decision. I know that there are people who would like me simply to make a political decision to allow people to endanger themselves.”
A reporter pushed further with the governor, pointing out the rest of the Midwest is playing high school football. High schools in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin are playing fall football in September, while Michigan is starting its season on Friday.
“We have the lowest positivity rate in the Midwest — still too high,” he said. “The states that you’re talking about, they all have very high positivity rates — double-digit positivity rates in most. And those are states, fine, if they’ve decided to endanger children and families in those states by allowing certain contact sports to take place, that’s their decision. That’s not something that’s good for the families, the children of Illinois.”
The News-Gazette pulled data from the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine website, which tracks COVID-19 testing. It was last updated Tuesday morning, and shows seven-day average positivity rates in those Midwest states that are playing football include:
- Illinois: 3.7 percent
- Indiana: 6.1 percent
- Iowa: 13.6 percent
- Kentucky: 3.3 percent, with a high of 10.3 percent in September
- Michigan: 3.0 percent
- Missouri: 10.7 percent
- Ohio: 3.6 percent
- Wisconsin: 15.5 percent
Cully Welter, Monticello's football coach, told The News-Gazette he found Pritzker's comments on the subject of fall sports "disappointing." He said he still plans to attend the "Let Us Play" rally on Saturday, and added he wants to keep working on giving kids a chance to play, even if the opportunity appears slim.
IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson, who sent the letter about resuming control of decision to the governor, said Friday "there have been no discussions, let alone proposed timelines, for resuming any sports at this time."