Public safety first (Part 2)
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2020 - 12:00am

The two most prominent collegiate sports s have both suspended their games in light of the threat of the novel coronavirus in the country. On Wednesday, the UAAP announced that it would be postponing its games starting this weekend. On Thursday, the NCAA did the same. Though the cessation is temporary, it drives home the point that these are just games, and that there are larger issues at play. Just as schools in the Manila area did weeks ago, school authorities recognized that the health and safety of its students and the general populace are far more important.

Whenever there is potential or imminent danger to the public, the best recourse is to temporarily suspend activities that gather people together, or attract crowds. This is the same whether the threat is biological, terrorist or any other. Public safety will always be paramount. So if children and the youth complain about being housebound for the meantime, let them. A week or two of quietude never hurt anybody.

What is scary is that the virus has an incubation period. This means that someone could acquire it without showing symptoms. In the meantime, he or she could have passed it on inadvertently. Consider how many people you come into contact with through the course of the day. You meet or bump into delivery people, street vendors, drivers, commuters, sales people, security guards, bank tellers, waiters, teachers, and other service people. Each of them, in turn, comes into contact with hundreds or thousands of people every day. And we normally don’t give it a second thought. Watch the opening sequence of the old movie “Contagion,” and you’ll see just how many public things you touch every day.

There are also other inherent risks to being in a coliseum or stadium, or even when you go out in general. First of all, parking structures are not that well ventilated, and are therefore warmer than the outdoors. They also accumulate the fumes of cars, so staying in them, even for a short conversation, may be hazardous to your health. Some aren’t even well lit, so why risk getting mugged?

As mentioned in a previous column, dry air-conditioned air is a better environment for bacteria and viruses (the two media of contagion) than natural, temperate air. There’s no heat or moisture to foil then. If someone in the bleachers were to sneeze, pathogens could be blown for meters and be dispersed over a wide area. You could carry viruses for hours without knowing it. So as prescribed, constant hand washing or disinfecting and avoiding touching your face would help contain any potential outbreak.

Also, the food served in such venues is not ideal or healthy. Because of the rush to serve as many customers as possible, much of the time, meats cooked or prepared at sporting venues do not reach the necessary internal temperature to be considered properly cooked. And shared condiment containers could be a swamp of microbes. The human body simply has such a remarkable healing system that we take these things for granted.

Another reason for safety precautions is the possibility of violence. For example, after throwing incidents at Metropolitan Basketball Association games beginning in Cebu, bottle drinks served at the venues were served without caps, which discourages using them as projectiles. In other places, drinks are served in paper, plastic or styrofoam cups.

War, internal conflict and contagion are the most common reasons for suspending sporting tournaments. In this case, let’s bear in mind that this us only temporary, and these are just games.

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