EDITORIAL Let the kids play with or without masks

We’ve reached a point in this pandemic where the end is now in sight. Numbers are dropping like a rock other than vaccination numbers which are climbing higher and higher.
Hearing a girls basketball game this week was postponed due to several players on the visiting team not wearing masks just doesn’t make sense.
The Littlefork-Big Falls girls basketball team has six players that have mask exemptions. They received those exemptions from medical doctors and this is allowed for under the guidelines of the Minnesota State High School League, the governing body for sports.
But Ely’s school administration decided the risk was too great and the game may or may not be played in March. This is depressing for fans, for the coaches and especially for the players.
Mason Imhof, the Littlefork-Big Falls athletic director is also the girls basketball coach. He sent a letter explaining the situation, that included the following:
“I have followed the MSHSL guidelines and have encountered schools who have questioned this. I have provided the required paperwork and documents at each game. One school cancelled due to this issue. Others have expressed concerns about playing us because of our mask exempt players.
“I would like to make it clear that I’m following the rules MSHSL provided. When a player comes to me with a note from a medical doctor, I honor it. These medical professionals have more knowledge than anyone about a patient’s health. I do not question this. I would treat it the same way as I do a doctor’s note saying an athlete has a sprain, broken bone, or other medical condition requiring them to wear a brace, sleeve, or any other medical device. I am following the same MSHSL regulations regarding players wearing medical devices to wear them, and also with mask exemption notes, not to wear masks.”
“I believe athletics play a crucial role in our student athlete’s lives. We are in strange times in 2021 and I think sports are more critical now than ever, in the development of student’s lives. My team and I will do whatever is necessary to have a basketball season.
“If a school chooses not to honor the MSHSL mask exemption policy, our players have stated they would wear masks if that means playing. At ages 12-17, who wouldn’t make that choice, even when a medical professional has advised not to? As their coach I cannot allow them to go against a doctor’s order and require them to wear masks. When a team refuses to play because of mask exempt players, we will not play. We understand that participation is voluntary in all MSHSL activities.”
Ely superintendent Erik Erie doesn’t appear to believe the folks in Littlefork-Big Falls. In an email to the Echo, Erie said:
“What I can tell you is that Essentia, St. Luke’s, and Fairview hospital systems are supposedly not granting waivers. (Source in St. Louis County Public Health) I have spoken with Essentia doctors in Ely and Aurora and they confirmed the Essentia policy of not granting waivers.
“Allowing people in our school building without face coverings is not consistent with the strict mitigation protocol that we have been following and when we still have some students forced to be distance learning three days a week in the Hybrid model it would also seem inconsistent to say to our own students ‘stay away three days a week and wear a mask when you come to school and get at temperature check, but it is OK if visitors outside our bubble come into our building and don’t have to wear a face covering.’ That doesn’t seem right and puts the people in our building at greater risk. Are the waivers be granted by someone with the credentials of Dr. Bianco (he isn’t granting waivers) or are they being handed out by Dr. Suess? We don’t know.”
We would point out that Erie did not check with the Rainy Lake Medical Center, which has a clinic in Littlefork. Also, there is no bubble surrounding the Ely school district. Administrators, teachers, coaches and kids come in contact with other people outside the school district every day. They may go to a grocery store, or go on vacation or eat at one of our local restaurants.
We understand the best efforts to keep everyone healthy, it’s an admirable goal. But at this point in the pandemic, the numbers are as low as they have been throughout this whole nightmare.
Here’s the best reason to let the kids play. The Covid number for the 55731 zip code was released on Thursday, which should have been game day for the girls basketball team.
The number is the same as what the scoreboard reads at the end of the game: 0.00.