Letter to the editor: Wrestling community shocked by public health’s recommendations

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Wrestling in Clark County is on a precipice. Over four weeks ago, Dec. 4 was a weekend of hope that our youth’s wrestling was finally getting back to normal. The youth of our county had been working and practicing hard for this first opportunity of weekend competition.

The following weekend additional tournaments and competitions were held and life seemed to be transitioning into our past rhythms. Unfortunately, it was to be short lived as the Washington State Department of Health was tracking COVID-19 cases from four wrestling events from the week of Dec. 4. One of these events, the Yelm varsity girls tournament was attended by six of the county’s high schools and by Dec. 13, Clark County Public Health (CCPH) was actively tracking COVID-19 cases in our youths and coaches. Thirty-two cases were enough for the health department to recommend ceasing all wrestling activities. This declaration was the first of its kind for the 2021-22 school year. Even though over 50% of teams were unaffected, all the school districts in our county acted in lockstep and followed the CCPH’s recommendation. Other sports had experienced outbreaks of the virus in the fall and even other sports this winter were experiencing some positive cases, but no one else was asked to stop their sport in its entirety.

The wrestling community was shocked and dismayed by the CCPH’s recommendations and the response of school districts. On Dec. 17, dozens of parents, coaches, and students called in to the last scheduled Clark County Board of Health meeting to express their frustration over CCPH’s recommendation. The reaction of the board members showed they were clearly aware of the health department’s actions. Fortunately, the board called an emergency meeting to address wrestling and the health department’s role which was held on Tuesday, Dec. 21. At the start, the board prioritized their executive board and Dr. Alan Melnick’s prepared statement over the concerns of the wrestling community. To be sure, the board was not prepared for this meeting.

After an hour of public testimony, the board members decided they didn’t need to hear anymore. The 70 people waiting to speak were told to write in their concerns with a promise they would read any and all statements sent to them, conveniently saving them from hours of testimony highlighting their failure of leadership.

The meeting made abundantly clear that the state department of health, the local school districts, and even the members of the board of health were all actively skirting responsibility. All involved blamed others for the situation with no one left for the public to turn to.



Councilor Gary Medvigy’s dismissal of the board’s role in the current situation was most egregious. Many parents asked the board to use their oversight on the CCPH to prevent undue influence on the community, and Gary’s responses were clearly designed to allow him to shirk responsibility.

We, the people, need leaders. Will the board finally start leading or do the people need to look in another direction?

Jeremy Baker,

Vancouver

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