Portland’s mask mandate is just plain mean to athletes

Portland makes its student athletes wear masks during indoor competitions out of fear for itself

Cliff Pfenning
April 24, 2022

It’s amazing what fear will do to people - just stand on a street corner and watch cars go by and you’ll see it firsthand. In just seconds on a busy street, you’ll see someone driving alone wearing a mask, which is not unusual in this era of Covid Pandemic.

The logic here is one of simple fear and compliance. It’s the fear of contracting and/or spreading the virus, and compliance that wearing a mask is the proper way to help society defend itself against the virus.

Wearing a mask while you’re alone in your car is helping you avoid contracting the virus - from yourself, and spreading the virus - to yourself. Welcome to 2022.

Okay, so what? This example affects only one person in blissful harmony. But, this fear and compliance extends to what can be described as just plain mean - making athletes wear a mask while they’re competing. Attend a high school basketball game within the Portland Public Schools, and you’ll see players on the court wearing masks, along with the referees. Everyone in the gym is mandated to wear a mask. The policy isn’t strictly enforced on the court - so players can actually have the mask under their chin if needed for simple air purposes. But, they still have to wear a mask on the court.

It’s just plain mean.

It’s based on fear, which is the message Portland’s school leaders are promoting to their future leaders: it’s better to be safe than sorry, so just comply with the mandate at all times. Even while you’re competing on a basketball court.

The argument that this is just mean comes from analyzing date provided by the Center for Disease Control, which is where all the info on Covid gets disseminaed through local and national media. That dissemination regularly hypes up the element of fear, which is just how media works. The CDC’s count on more than 800,000 citizens having died from Covid-related issues comes from death certificates and is updated daily. It’s updated daily by state, and even by filters for race and age.

The age filter is very illuminating, especially for those high school athletes. There is basically no chance Covid will affect them harmfully. In Oregon, no one 17 and under has died from Covid, according to the CDC. The state just passed 5,800 deaths related to Covid since stats began being compiled in 2020, but there are zero for 17-and-under, and only 30 in the 18-29 age-group.

Of the 5,800 deaths, only 286 were 49-and-under.

Those stats show that of those 5,800, more than 1,500 were in the 85-and-older age-group.

Nationally, the CDC reports 748 Covid deaths 17-and-under, and 223,000 85-and-older from nearly two years of fact gathering.

Age has a significant impact on Covid. Significant.

Another way to look at it is life has a significant impact on Covid, as in how much life you’ve lived. The people most likely to be greatly affected by Covid - all the way to mortality, are the people who’ve had the most chance to live well. That’s living well even with the fear of dying from a virus such as the common cold or influenza: the flu. There’s annual vaccines for the flu as the CDC expects somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 deaths attributed to the flu across America annually. Everyone does not get the vaccine, and there are no mandates within schools for students or staff to be vaccinated. People are just plain not afraid of the flu, even though it’s a deadly virus just like Covid.

The flu comparison is hated by most folks who passionately support all mask mandates because Covid is so much more deadlier than the flu - many time more deadly. And, the logic of no one 17-and-under having died from Covid is because of those mask mandates is probably a solid one, too. The death toll for Oregonians 49-and-under would likely be much higher without these mandates is easy to accept, too. But, at what cost to society?

How many more people would have died without the mask mandates? Several hundred more? Several thousand more? Several times that 5,800 figure? No more? There’s no way to calculate that because it’s an unseen virus.

There’s regular comparisons on national media for the Covid total of more than 800,000 to military deaths for all US engagements throughout more than 250 years of history. That total is more than all the wars combined is a regular statement. That’s an illuminating figure, too, as it involves the challenge of facing ones fear of death, even if it’s just driving from one town to another on an Iraqi road. Suddenly a land mine explodes and destroys the vehicle you’re in and everyone inside.

I think of June 6, 1944. The safest way to avoid any chance of getting shot and killed on Omaha Beach would have been to just stay off the beach. Those soldiers didn’t have the option of staying on a ship and not getting on a landing craft.

But, people in a gym do have that option. So, if you’ve got some fear of contracting the virus with lethal consequences, then don’t go to a high school basketball game in Portland. Or don’t play or coach or officiate in one, either.

Another way to combat this fear of Covid is through all the stats promoted daily. It’s a way to view how intense the virus is for society, and how the media promotes fear through cases. The more cases there are, the more deaths there are going to be, which is how it works. But, it’s from actual positive tests, and everyone in Oregon is not getting tested daily. Everyone in America is not getting tested daily. And, almost all of the positive tests were for people who had some symptoms such as high temperature and coughing a lot. They went to a care center, and got tested. Generally, about five people in 100 test positive. If that five percent total were to be extrapolated to population, though, then the actual number of cases would be far higher because of all the people who didn’t get tested because they didn’t have any symptoms. They would test positive as assymptomatic if they were tested. This is how most athletes test positive - in fact almost all athletes college and pro. Searching across the Internet, I haven’t come across any athletes who’ve died from Covid, which has good logic because athletes are in great shape, and are in the younger age-groups so they’ve far less vulnerable.

The Minnesota Vikings had an offensive lineman, Dakota Dozier, who spent three days in a hospital due to Covid. But, his story includes the fact that he responded to prescription medication almost instantly, and then just rest, which took place in a hospital. He probably could have just gotten medication and then went home and rested and recovered without a stay in the hospital. Media, of course, jumped on the hospital element to highlight the severity of his case, and not the fact he got better from simple medication and rest. That’s how the common cold gets addressed - medication and rest.

The caseload is higher, much higher, than it’s been in the past - as much as 2,400 cases per million, according to info provided by Johns Hopkins University. It was down to 34 in July. But that’s extrapolated from positive tests to the current population, which is 332 million according to the 2020 Census.

Cases per million is figure that’s extrapolated. Actual deaths is not, due to that being from an actual death certificate. In July, the figure was as low as 1,500 per week. The past two months it’s been at 9,500 per week. If the 2,400 figure per million were multiplied out by 332, that would be almost 800,000 people testing positive daily, almost all of whom had no symptoms. And 1,300 deaths daily. Covid is a killer, but ... more than a few people can wonder how much? When the University of California football team had one player with some symptoms get a positive test during the fall season, all the players were tested and nearly half the team came up positive. So, they were in quarantine protocol despite having no symptoms. With a depleted roster, they lost at Arizona, breaking a long losing streak for the Wildcats, and then had their game at USC cancelled the following week due to lack of players. The team’s quarterback wrote an opinion piece for the San Fransisco Chronicle arguing that no testing should have take place for the team because no one had any symptoms. And, from there, the argument is that if no one knows they have it, and it doesn’t really affect them, then how dangerous is it, really?

It’s dangerous due to fear, and that’s doing more damage to America than the death toll in terms of division.

America doesn’t need another reason to split itself up. But, Covid and masks and vaccines do that. Especially because of an individuals nose.

Cliff Pfenning

Cliff is the publisher of Oregonsports.com, and has decades of experience in writing, photography, videography and graphic design. He's been a sportswriter in Oregon for more than three decades and has even taught sports broadcasting in Portland. He lives in North Portland in a house built in 1912 that has a backyard deck easily turned into a 'Top Golf' set-up for wiffle golf balls ... and cornhole.