It’s been clear for a while that, with the emergence of the omicron variant, pro sports in the U.S. would experience disruption. Last week, it became clear that, under existing protocols, the seasons of sports played in the winter were in serious jeopardy due to the virus. And yesterday, the National Hockey League put its season on hold.

I didn’t expect the covid protocols to change, at least not right away. However, the National Football League has just altered its approach, following outbreaks on several teams that forced a few games to be played later than originally scheduled.

The NFL’s change consists of scaling back testing. After large numbers of players tested positive last week, the league decided no longer to conduct regular testing of vaccinated players who show no signs of illness.

The alteration drew sharp criticism from some, including Jerry Brewer, a woke scold sports columnist for the Washington Post (is there any other kind at the Post?). To me, though, the change makes sense.

Consider this: Anthony Casolaro, the chief medical officer of the the Washington Football Team and president of the NFL Physicians Society, says that the WFT has had 23 cases of players testing positive for covid. Only two of those players had symptoms that would have caused him to hold them out of practice. Casalaro did not say whether these two players are vaccinated.

I saw my physician yesterday. He said a significant number of his patients have tested positive for covid, but only one is suffering from anything more than an ordinary cold. That patient is a 90 year-old who steadfastly refused to be vaccinated. He’s in the hospital.

The reality is that young athletes who are vaccinated face essentially zero risk of anything more than a cold from the omicron variant. Accordingly, from the standpoint of player health, there’s no reason to test vaccinated players with no covid symptoms.

The argument in favor of testing them is that doing so helps protect “society.” Identifying and isolating infected people with no symptoms will reduce the spread to people who are at higher risk — older folks who are unvaccinated. This, in turn, will decrease hospitalizations, thereby preventing emergency rooms from being overwhelmed. So the argument goes.

I don’t find it persuasive. South Africa and Denmark are said to be the two countries where the omicron variant took hold first. In South Africa, according to Worldometer, there are 200,000 active covid cases now. Fewer than 600 are considered serious/critical. In Denmark, which produces highly reliable data and has a high vaccination rate, there are 118,000 active cases and 67 that are serious/critical.

To me, then, it seems unlikely that by not testing vaccinated athletes with no covid symptoms, our sports leagues will cause American hospitals to be overwhelmed.

Remember, too, that a great many asymptomatic Americans never get tested. Therefore, testing asymptomatic vaccinated athletes only periodically — or even not at all — will not appreciably decrease the amount of testing that occurs in this country.

We’re talking about a drop in the bucket. A drop in the bucket doesn’t provide sufficient reason to sink sports seasons.

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