Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner teamed up with some Olympic gold medalists Monday to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to again allow youth sports competitions.
Wagner, who has been part of an effort to reopen more business sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, held a news conference at Tustin Sports Park with youth sports business leaders, as well as Olympic athletes, including Jessica Hardy Meichtry, a 2012 swimming gold medalist, and Mission Viejo Mayor Brian Goodell, a two-time swimming gold medalist in 1976.
Wagner said small businesses have been “suffering,” and added, “But there’s another group suffering … and that’s our youth sports.”
Wagner, who has been a frequent critic of Newsom, said the governor has been “erratic” in managing the response to the pandemic and has failed to provide a “comprehensive plan.”
The governor’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wagner argued that youths learn a great deal about “winning and losing” in competition, but “none of that learning is getting done today because of the governor’s erratic response” to the pandemic.
Wagner said daycare and summer camps were allowed to reopen, but youths have been prevented from competing in games. Wagner said an entire league in Irvine was recently shut down because a pitcher and catcher were spotted too close together during a game.
Goodell said he was “grateful” that swimming and diving have been allowed again, but added, “It’s time to open up for competition again.”
“We shouldn’t have to send our kids to Arizona to compete,” Goodell said, referring to some parents who have opted to truck their children out of state for competitions.
Meichtry noted that many are struggling with mental health issues and sports “was the only way for me to stay out of trouble growing up … It’s really important for us.”
Johnny Johnson, president of Blue Buoy Swim School, said swimming instruction is important for children because it can help prevent drownings. He noted that only one child in Orange County has died from COVID-19 during the pandemic, but two children have died by drowning this year.
Justin Roswell of the Baseball Factory said many parents are taking their children to Arizona and Utah to play games.
“Governor Newsom, I challenge you to come up with a timeline and an action plan to get our kids back on the field,” Roswell said.
Bob Turner, president of the California Youth Soccer Association, said some parents are taking their children to Las Vegas, as well, for competitions.
“We can stop this,” Turner said. “Everyone is going rogue.”
Turner said local youth sports leaders are committed to social distancing, mask usage and other measures to protect young athletes and that it would be safer to have the games locally than to let parents travel in and out of state with their children.
Wagner argued, “Science says our kids are very resistant to this disease.”
Many epidemiologists, however, say there is a risk of children and young adults passing in the virus to older, more vulnerable people.
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