Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – On the brink of summer, Humboldt County supervisors and public health officials are considering how youth sports activities can be done in an era of new disease.
The prospects for re-launching youth sports were discussed during a COVID-19 update at the June 2 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Supervisor Rex Bohn vouched for allowing youth sports and games, saying, “Maybe we can be a leader in this.”
He warned that there is a “void” in children’s lives now that Internet learning sessions have ended and they need to be outside with each other.
“We need to let the horses out and run in the safest manner we can,” said Bohn. “Their health has to come into play and we’re operating at 10,000 feet and the little kids are down here going, ‘Hey, what about us?’”
The effects of the county’s shelter-in-place order, which has been in effect since March 20, include school shutdowns and lack of social contact between children. “We’ve shocked and awed them like they’ve never seen before,” Bohn said. “We’ve got to tell kids what we’re doing, why we’re doing this and what we’re going to do for them – because I worry about the children.”
Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich said state guidance on conducting day camps and other youth activities is “forthcoming.”
Public Health Director Michele Stephens said ways to allow children’s sports gatherings are being talked about. “Alternative programming” for things like sports camps may include smaller team groupings and other preventative measures.
Humboldt County is one of many asking the state for guidance. “Counties are strongly advocating for some kind of number, some kind of decision around how we can work with youth organizing to get them out and interacting with each other in some safe capacity,” said Stephens. “It’s going to have to be more than what it is because we can’t keep them inside, like they are, all day – it’s becoming detrimental.”
Youth sports will be somewhat complicated to carry out because children can’t wear masks while playing. But Stephens said that adults who aren’t playing the games can and with hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, transmission risks can be offset.
Bohn emphasized the importance of figuring something out. “I fear for our children way more than I fear for myself,” he said.
Also at the meeting, Supervisor Mike Wilson and Board Chair Estelle Fennell sponsored a discussion on allowing use of sidewalk, parking lot and road areas for retail businesses, restaurants and outdoor activities. During a public comment session, Jennifer Dart, deputy director of the Arcata Community Development Department, said the city is also planning to do it.
Arcata’s plan is to issue free encroachment permits and the city is “also looking at ways to make that process easier for businesses and restaurants in order to allow them to open with dining options on the sidewalk and also, potentially, for outdoor sales and displays for our retail shops,” said Dart.
Using outdoor space will allow businesses and restaurants to expand beyond the limits that are set for the amount of customers that can be served inside, she continued, adding that people “also feel safer in an outdoor environment.”
Dart said her department supports a regional approach to implementing the idea and collaboration with the county.
Supervisors supported further discussion on the idea but there was acknowledgement that some unincorporated areas aren’t well-suited for it due to parking shortages.