Is Playing Pickleball Safe Now?

Is playing Pickleball less safe now than it was in the summer? Given the change in weather and new wave of Covid 19 infections, what should we be doing to ensure safe and healthy play?

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, epidemiologist, scientist, government official, CDC employee or pandemic expert. The conclusions and opinions are mine based on limited information, data and just a few hours of thought and analysis. Like many other topics today, there is a lot of misinformation and this post is my personal effort to sort out my alternatives and plan of action.

Overview: There are approximately 2,300 members in the South Jersey Pickleball Group. Recently there were a few members that tested positive for coronavirus. These members had recently played at various pickleball venues and obviously this created some concerns within the pickleball community. While there have been reported incidents of coronavirus infections nationwide spreading at indoor pickleball facilities, there appears to be few, if any infection outbreaks of coronavirus from playing outdoors. 

The infection rates within the State of New Jersey and specifically Camden County have risen dramatically the past few weeks. In Camden County, more than 15,000 cases of infection have been reported since the start of the pandemic. This represents about 3% of the Camden County population. Gloucester County has approximately 7,200 cases, representing about 2.5% of their population.

If we use 3% as the mean, as many as 70 South Jersey Pickleball members could be projected to have already caught the coronavirus. So no one should be surprised in a group as large as ours, there may be some reported cases. (As an offset, most members of the South Jersey Pickleball group are obviously very health conscious and many are retired so they are not exposed to potential workplace initiated infections.)

Risk Management Considerations:

Many in our pickleball community are in a high risk age group (65+) related to complications from Coronavirus. Younger players generally have less to fear if infected but they still need to exert vigilance and prevention for themselves and when playing with or around older players. Older players too must be diligent when playing with or around younger players.

Exposure to many players. If you play golf or tennis, generally you play with three other people for the morning or session. Some Pickleball Meetups had 50 or more people signed up so this meant in a two or three hour period, you could be partnered or playing with 12-20 different people depending on the available players at your skill level. (See chart). If you play 3 or more times a week, you can be playing with 40 or more different people creating added potential exposure or risk.

Exposure to players who are visiting or returning from vacations from “hot infection” states. Pickleball players (usually) are a very friendly group. We don’t check IDs on the court. Hence we don’t quarantine players from Florida, South Carolina etc playing on South Jersey or local courts. Regrettably as I write, just about every state is a “hot infection” state.

Exposure to different pickleballs. There are those balls you play with each game and those balls you toss back to another court when their ball rolls on your court.

Recommendations:

These measures appear to be prudent given the colder weather and the rising rates of Coronavirus infections nationwide and within the South Jersey/Philadelphia area. Hopefully by Spring 2021, vaccines will have begun to be distributed and pickleballers can return to an almost normalized routine.

Play within small groups of players (4-8) to minimize exposure. Various groups are organizing and using the TeamReach app to schedule events. If, by chance, a player displays symptoms or tests positive, TeamReach can serve as a communication and tracking tool.

Ideally one should play with those who are responsible and considerate of the health and safety of other players. These also should be people who you can have fun and be social with.

Players who play exclusively outside may be safer to play with than players who have recently or are playing indoors.

If you are an older player, it may be safer to play with people within your own age group. Most younger players have families and children and are much less likely to be able to isolate due to career and family responsibilities.

Playing outdoors appears to be more safer (not foolproof) than playing indoors. If you are deciding to play indoors, make sure that the facility and employees are practicing the same due diligence and health risk mitigating efforts as you are.

Maintain social distancing and wear a mask while resting or waiting to play again. (I don’t think I have seen those precautions taken at all at any of the venues I have played. I think all of us were lulled by the great weather.)

Don’t handle someone else’s paddles. (This generally happens when moving paddles along a fence or queue to create space.)

If you are feeling sick or have a fever, don’t play!! (whether it’s outdoors or indoors). This is not the best time to try to play through an illness.

From Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Hill Street Blues), one last piece of advice “Let’s be careful out there!”

Irresponsible

Is Trump really sick or is this just a big hoax to gin up sympathy for his declining campaign?

How could he have walked out of the hospital without a doctor’s release or  permission to drive around the block?

More importantly, how could anyone in the administration including his Chief of Staff, Secret Service Director, Vice President etc. think that this was remotely an appropriate or good idea? They thought this was a good idea to reassure Americans of his health?

Does Trump and his family (wife, daughters, sons etc) have any consideration for the health and lives of people who surround him (Secret Service, medical, aides, staff members, donors, supporters etc) and their families?

Why can’t the press and the country get straight answers about his health, his treatment, his prognosis etc.?

Why haven’t the Republican leadership insisted that Trump sign over temporary Presidential powers to Pence?

Are there really 40% of the voters in this country who think he should be re-elected?

Observations on a Hot, Steamy Sunday

My fear is that the next presidential election will not be determined by ballots but by bullets; not at the polls but on the streets.

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Axios: “80% of Americans say we are headed in the wrong direction.” I say that we have already arrived.

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The United States has rested on its laurels since 1945. Other than the moon landings, what have we done in terms of significant accomplishment, national pride and purpose? How did we earn our sense of exceptionalism?

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The coronavirus is the King Kong of our time. Scientists can’t stop it. Governments are powerless. It rumbles through with little resistance. Kong and the coronavirus did meet their match in New York City. Let’s call it a draw for now…

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I don’t write for an audience of today. I write for a reader or student 20-50 years in the future so they may understand our current times, tone and culture. My sense is that they will be in disbelief in how poorly we conducted our politics, economy and health.

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On Sundays, people used to buy the paper to read the “funnies.” Here’s what I read from the NewYork Times and Washington Post on Sunday and they are not funny.

America 2-27-20

 

Clearing Mental Cache II

My Top 12 SNL skits:

  1. Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
  2. Celebrity Jeopardy with Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds
  3. Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood with Eddie Murphy
  4. Close Encounters/Paranormal skits with Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong
  5. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
  6. Word Association (1975) with Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase
  7. Meet your Second Wife with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
  8. Taran Killam as Jebediah Atkinson (cultural and political critic)
  9. Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin Point/counterpoint (“Jane, you ignorant slut”)
  10. More Cowbell (Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken
  11. Toonces the Cat with Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson
  12. The Continental (Christopher Walken)

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I would not be shocked if the winner of the next Presidential election is not determined by voters but by the military.

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Why does the re-opening of MLB, NBA and NHL along with the proposed start of NFL football seem like the start of an extended exhibition season for all sports? Does Las Vegas have an over/under of how many games each sport will have before they are forced to close down?

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Donald Trump may not have airports, government buildings or ships named after him as he leaves office but there will be wings of libraries stocked with shelves of books written about him and his presidency. Forget books written by those who worked with Trump or are historians, teachers and news analysts. The most incisive and reveling book will come from his third and recently divorced wife, Melania.

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Pornography is now better regulated on the internet than political propaganda and is often less obscene. (So I hear)

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What is more dangerous? Not wearing a mask in a crowded bar or being an attractive female working at Fox News?

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Capitalism-an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Can someone explain to me how we are a capitalist economy when the Federal Reserve is propping up the stock market with zero interest rates, while billionaires, large corporations and certain “churches” are receiving financial handouts even though many do not need the money?

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There has already been a lot of discussion about Trump’s presidency relative to his standing with that of his predecessors. Trump, himself feels a kinship to Abraham Lincoln. I decided to take a historical scenario and based on how Trump has handled current crises and project how he would have handled a crisis in the past. I am comparing how FDR actually handled events in WWII to how Trump may have handled them. (Depending on your point of view, you may think my comparison an amusing parody or you may think, “Yeah, you got it right.”)

FDR vs Trump

 

“No” to Fall College and High School Sports

I miss watching sports. I miss watching the competition between teams and among individuals. I miss players displaying their talents, drive and athleticism. I miss the energy of a rabid crowd cheering for their team. With all that said, I don’t want to watch sports played under the current pandemic circumstances, especially high school and college sports. I think that athletic directors and university presidents are delusional to think that games could be played given the spread of infections, particularly in the southern and southwestern sections of this country where college football is fanatical.

I understand that the cancellation of fall sports at many colleges and universities could mean the termination of all sports at those schools. Again I appreciate the economic and psychological fallout of canceled sports. But subjecting the possible infection of the coronavirus to a college athlete is not unlike sending Christians to face lions and tigers in an ancient Roman arena. The outcomes are not likely to be favorable.

In this country, we are anxious for a return to normalcy—-a return to the routines and lifestyles we enjoyed before the spread of the pandemic. Some people practice this by refusing to wear masks thus prolonging the consequences of the pandemic. As a country, we are also experiencing political, economic and social agendas that may not reflect good judgment, good science and common sense. I err to the side of caution.

As an aside, I am not sure that re-opening the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball is a good idea either but those players are pros and are getting paid and have the ability to opt out.

What Me Worry?

Some of the headlines just for today:

Trump retweets video saying “only good Democrat is dead Democrat”…

“Haven’t seen black people this upset in 20 years” Van Jones

Total jobless claims top 40 million

Fed: Sharp decline in May leaves business is pessimistic about recovery

Stressed out front line nurses admit they are at breaking point with 68% planning to quit their jobs

United States deaths: 101,573

Q1 contraction worse than thought

The former Minneapolis police officer seen in the video with his knee on Floyd’s neck had 18 prior complaints filed against him

Governor declares state of emergency in Minneapolis

As US deaths top 100,000, Trump’s virus task force is curtailed

A GOP lawmaker had the virus,  Nobody told Democrats exposed to him.

California is re-opening too quickly, posing “very serious risk,” health officer warns

Jim Cramer says market still in for a “rough ride,” suggest sticking with remote tech stocks.

“Sorry, no mask allowed”: Some businesses pledge to keep our customers who cover their faces

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Deaths

OC 5-15-20

Governor Murphy opened up the Jersey beaches but with the proviso that there would be social distancing and that people would wear masks. The Ocean City boardwalk was packed. I viewed the crowds from the cams I had along the Boardwalk. There was very little social distancing and I saw very few people, including those who were my age, wearing masks.

I’m not surprised that people took advantage of a beautiful day to go the Shore. I’m astounded that so few made even the slightest effort at social distancing and wearing masks.

I think Governors and most elected officials are losing their stomachs in urging precautions and restraints. The populace has tired of making sacrifices and there are so many false reports about the coronavirus that people are not as afraid as they should be in getting infected.

Ruminations from a “Hot Zone”

As I write, 1,228,214 have been infected and 73,418 are dead in the United States from the coronavirus.

I ran some numbers last night based on available statistics. 

5-6-20

  • Less than .4% of the U.S. population has been reported as being infected. This number is probably low as there has not been sufficient testing. Less than .02% of the U.S. population has died from the disease. This number may be higher as there may have been deaths that were not attributed to Covid 19 that could go back into 2019.
  • New York and New Jersey have been the two states hit hardest with the Covid 19 infection. Governor Murphy extended restrictions in NJ until June 7. While the infection rate has decreased slightly, there is a fear of resurgence if NJ opens up businesses and the beaches.
  • Pennsauken has about a 1% infection rate (360 infections from a 36,000 population.) Moorestown has suffered a rise both in infections and deaths. Just about all the deaths were people over 65.

Some ruminations:

Crises bring out the best and the worst in people. Listed are my grades and a one sentence summary of their performance, actions and results:

Trump: F Acted too slow. Preened and whined too much. Responsible for a lot of deaths and destruction of the economy.

Andrew Cuomo: A Demonstrated and communicated leadership, good judgment and compassion.

Governor Murphy: A Not as telegenic as Cuomo but has done a very good job.

Congress: C- Not acting with the necessary urgency that this pandemic requires.

Media: C Uneven reporting. Fox News deserves an F. Coverage of the President’s Task Force was largely a mistake. Too much panic spun at times from various reports and cable shows.

Dr Fauci: B+ I would have given him an A or A+ but for his glowing recommendation of remdesivir whose performance is slightly more effective than a placebo.

Nurses A++ So many heroic stories about their care and bravery.

Really irritated about insurance companies bragging about refunds to auto insurance policies. Liberty Mutual is giving me 15% off of a 2 month premium which probably comes to $30 or less. I like many others are probably driving 60-70% less during these times. 60 to 70% is the range they should have used for the refund.

I have noticed a number of both public and social media comments about letting elderly people die as a sacrifice to the economy. If we ever get to the other side of this crisis, there will be political and economic pain for those who were willing to toss 65+ year old people overboard off the life boats.