We wanted to share with you the letter that we have sent to the Governor's Office for consideration. You can also find this letter on our Facebook Page if you would like to share it.
Follow the Science
20 November 2020
Governor Jay Inslee
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
RE: Reopening Indoor Sporting Facilities
Dear Governor Inslee,
We are appealing to you regarding the recent business shutdown in Washington State announced 15 November 2020. You have stated that due to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, that “the time has come to reinstate restrictions on activities statewide to preserve the public’s well-being, and to save lives.” Furthermore, you have stated repeatedly that you have/will “follow the science” when making these tough decisions.
We support the intent behind your order, which is to save lives. All lives are important and we would expect nothing less. While there may be disagreement among citizens regarding the reasoning of the shutdown, we would rather not debate that, preferring instead to “follow the science” and apply best practices accordingly.
In your recent proclamation and guidance you have made the decision to shut down all indoor sporting facilities - which includes indoor soccer facilities. We believe that this decision was made without the benefit of fully evaluating the overall impact to businesses, the mental and physical health of citizens, nor “following the science” as you have so clearly stated.
So let's follow the science:
Participation in sports is inconsequential to the spread of Covid-19
A survey was completed by 207 Wisconsin schools that had restarted sports and included data from over 30,000 athletes participating in over 16,000 practices and 4,000 games during the month of September. In the study, schools were also asked to report the source of the transmission of any positive cases among players. Two known sources made up nearly 96% of the transmissions – Household contacts (55%) and Community Contact (40.7%). Sport contact made up just 0.5% of transmissions (in this instance - 1 case). This is consistent with information coming out of the NCAA, according to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated, that “Medical experts in the college sports world say they have no evidence of on-field transmission of the virus.”
Youth soccer leagues in California this summer found that after holding 143,000 soccer sessions over eight weeks, just 15 confirmed COVID cases were found. All of those players contracted the virus from somebody outside of soccer - meaning no additional infection or virus spread was the result of playing soccer.
In digging deeper in the science and actual exposure for athletes, the CDC defines a Covid-19 close contact as someone who: Spent a total of 15 minutes or more → within 6 feet of a Covid-19 case → during a 24-hour period. According to Dellenger, “Few players from opposing teams spend enough time close enough to one another over the course of a game to be considered high-risk contacts (six feet for 15 minutes).” Referring to an NCAA study, the only position groups to log more than 15 minutes “of close contact” were a (football) center and nose guard. For those two positions, the highest recorded contact was 18 minutes in a game. For soccer the number is Zero.
Soccer creates an excessive amount of social distancing and spacing
Indoor sporting facilities are quite large by nature. For example, the facility in Bremerton is 50,000 sq ft and contains two (2) large fields and one (1) small field. One field on its own is over 13,760 sq ft. Recent Covid-19 protocols implemented reduced total players on the field down to twelve (12). The square footage allotted per player is in excess of 1,140 sq ft.
The US Fire Administration has set guidelines that state, “an assumed occupant load factor of greater than 113 square feet per person indicates that the building could potentially practice social distancing without any impact on the number of people present in the building.”
Following the science, we have created a situation where we have ten times (10x) the amount of square footage allotted per person for social distancing standards. The chances of close contact as defined by the CDC is infinitesimal.
If masking works, then let’s use them
By now we all know the recommendations, mandates, and benefits of wearing a mask. A study backed by the World Health Organization indicates that wearing a mask reduces the risk of transmission by 80% to under a 3% rate of transmission. Keeping at least three (3) feet of separation reduces the risk by 82% - and we are maintaining greater than six (6) feet. The combination of these two puts the risk of transmission well below the benchmark of 2.5% set out by Washington state to around 0.5% (which happens to be inline with the Wisconsin study).
Under your most recent guidance, you allow youth and adult sporting activities to resume (outdoor) activities “with facial coverings required for all coaches, volunteers and athletes at all times.” Why eliminate the opportunity to play in indoor warehouses (where air recirculation and exchange occurs within 10 minutes) under the same guidance? We are entering the dead of winter where more youth will catch cold or injure themselves from playing in freezing rain on dangerous turf (many of which are still off limits due to school district mandates) than if they were to come indoors.
If we follow the science, and maintain that masking works, then why not allow indoor facilities to implement the same protocol and require masks be worn by everyone at all times during this period. There are no studies supporting the closing of facilities due to the increased risk of transmission, therefore, allow citizens a true opportunity to play in a safe environment indoors while wearing a mask. We have surveyed our membership, and while they would prefer to not wear masks as the data supports, they are more than willing to wear a mask during play if given the choice between playing and not playing.
Covid-19 fatigue is taking a toll on mental and physical health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States with more than 800,000 people dying every year from complications. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventative deaths with approximately 300,000 deaths per year. Mental illness has reached international crisis with over 250,000 people attempting suicide in the United States each year. All of these leading causes are greater than the current rate of death with Covid-19. And all of these risks will increase as the lockdown continues. This is not to marginalize the loss of life to Covid-19, but to put into context that there is a cause and effect to every decision.
We are not disputing that the virus exists. We are asking for ways to help people cope with the stresses of the continued shutdown, get some well needed exercise, and improve their mental health. In the recent month that we were allowed to open up our business after 7 months (with a fixed expense cost of over $20,000 per month), we implemented many new protocols to comply with your mandates and create as safe an environment as possible for members. We were successful! Feedback from members was exceptional as a small piece of life seemed to get back to normal. All of our members complied with the masking, social distancing, contact tracing, and other protocols that were put into place during this abnormal time in life.
After one full month of operation, we had zero cases of Covid-19 reported; zero cases or contacts from the department of health for contact tracing or close contact reports from a positive case; and zero incidence of non-compliance within our facility. Give people a safe outlet to look forward to that improves both their physical and mental health - they will be better equipped to handle the new everyday pressures from Covid-19.
While business owners appreciate your putting an additional $50,000,000 into relief funds, it will not save businesses. There is not enough to go around to those affected, and quite frankly, they do not need more business loans. The grant portions are insignificant - in most cases not even covering half of only one monthly fixed expense while shuttered.
Many of our employees rely on us to meet their basic needs. We have had many employees denied unemployment relief for a variety of reasons and/or the coverage is not enough to support them and their families. The federal government has continued to drag its political feet to deny needed help to both businesses and individuals (a 2-3 month round of assistance does not solve a 9 month problem). Acknowledging there is a problem is not solving the problem. We must work together to get through this not only from a virus standpoint, but also from an economic standpoint. Give businesses that can open safely a chance for survival.
This second round shutdown is going to be more critical than the last as people and business are running out of gas in the tank. They have no more reserves or support to reach out to for bridging the gap. We can not wait to act - please follow the science and reconsider the current position.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Olympic Peninsula Sports
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Dear OlyPen Family,
As many of you are now aware, today (11/15), Governor Inslee issued a revised "Stay Safe - Stay Healthy" Proclamation for Washington state effective Tuesday, November 17th and continuing until Monday, December 14th. The Proclamation effectively shuts us down during this period of time (prohibition #’s 1, 4, and 16 affect us).
Along with all of you, we have gone through a range of emotions the past several months - and specifically the last few days - including excitement about reopening, relief to be back to normal and playing .... and now turning again to frustration, anger, worry, lack of understanding, concern for health and safety. Do we fully comply, or not comply at all? And the list goes on. We have been listening to all of you. We have been sharing our thoughts and working to incorporate yours. We are struggling to find a solution.
From an OPS management perspective, we must play the long game. To put it into soccer terms, we can not argue with a bad call. We can not despair because we lost a game during the season. We can not quit because we did not win the Supporters Shield. We must be mindful of being able to play year after year - for that is our true love of the game.
Keeping those thoughts/concepts in mind, we must look at what we have to lose. We can not afford to lose any of our required licensing to remain in operation in the long term. This includes those issued by the Department of Health, Liquor Control Board, Labor and Industries, operating permits by the state of Washington, leases with the City of Bremerton, and above all, we do not want to lose members to Covid-19. It is not as simple as just staying open - as much as we would like to.
We have tried. Research shows that participation in indoor soccer has not resulted in transmission of Covid-19 (our facility specifically has had zero cases reported and no contact tracing reports requested by the Department of Health). We, along with others, petitioned the state to reopen - and were successful! We implemented new safe start protocols to create more social distancing, we staggered start times, and we created better player flow on and off the field (reducing contact and interaction). With your help and cooperation we have all been successful!
We could not have reopened without you. We are asking for your help one more time. For our part, we will continue to petition the Governor's office and provide statistics on the benefits of playing and what we show as low (or near zero) risk of infection and spread. For your part, we are asking you to bear with us, support the decision, and be there ready to play just as soon as we receive the clearance to reopen. We can not reopen (again) without your support.
Covid-19 is taking a toll on everyone. We are all feeling the fatigue. Our healthcare workers and first responders, many of whom are players/friends at OlyPen, have borne an excessive amount of this burden - thank you to them! Many businesses, employees, and families are suffering and will suffer more because of this new order. We must be mindful that we as a community are in this together and we will get through it together.
On the business side of things, all games are paused and rolled forward to the new opening. If the Proclamation is extended, we will evaluate team fees, credits, and/or refunds at that time. As we honored previously, no one will be losing any team fees.
We wish there was a different/better solution. If/when one is presented, you will be the first to know and the doors will be open. Until then, we are asking you to stay safe and healthy - we want to see you all back!
Olympic Peninsula Sports