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The 11th Frame: When to resume bowling amid COVID-19 pandemic a personal choice that should be respected

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Saturday, May 23, 2020 11:00 am

It should go without saying that when to resume bowling amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a personal choice that should be respected. And actually, that could be said about anything in life.

COVID-19 is a matter of life and death, to a far greater degree for older people and those with underlying health problems. Judging anyone's choices when those are the stakes is low. But I'm sure there will be some of that as we begin resuming normal life.

Madison cardiologist Dr. James Stein offered an excellent look at the issues in this story.

(It should go without saying that this presumes all applicable laws/rules/guidelines are being followed where a person lives, and they are being responsible and careful if they are choosing to take part in something.)

The world basically stopped the night of March 11 when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19, setting off a cascade of closing down sports and eventually pretty much all of “non-essential” American life.

I have collected my stories on the impact of COVID-19 on bowling in this story, and earlier this week I posted this deep dive into when top-level bowling might resume.

There is nothing I would like more than to resume practicing with an eye to competing soon, but "normal" competition still seems well in the future.

Dane County (Madison) bowling centers can re-open on Tuesday at 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 people. That won’t accommodate all but special types of tournaments.

I have vacation scheduled for late July and early August and was hoping to bowl some of the PBA50 Tour events then, but I remain doubtful that they will happen, and the Hammond stop already was canceled this week, as I detailed in this story.

Sheltering in place has flattened the curve enough that beginning to open up seems to make sense. With just a few exceptions — most notably New York City — hospitals have not been overwhelmed, which seems to me to be a moral issue: no one in America should ever die when medical treatment could save them simply because a hospital is overcrowded.

And I think it’s arguable that at some point (perhaps already), the economic damage we are doing will make the cure worse than the disease: Staying locked down for months and creating another Great Depression seems like it would be worse for our country and the world than even a few hundred thousand deaths that we can delay but not prevent until there’s a vaccine, antibody preventative, or proven treatment drugs. Balancing those issues is a calculation for politicians to make.

All the evidence says the mortality rate for younger people with no underlying conditions is extremely low, so I’m hoping those folks will be able to resume some type of normal life, help keep businesses from collapsing, and take sensible precautions that will keep the health care system from being overwhelmed and vulnerable folks protected.

But I will not judge anyone who chooses not to venture out beyond essential things.

They may have reasons similar to mine.

I last rolled a ball the weekend of March 14-15 at the Wisconsin State Senior Tournament, and am not sure when I will roll one again.

And the reasons go beyond waiting for bowling to resume in Dane County and elsewhere, as my girlfriend Susie “Fever” Dyhr and I have additional issues that have us pondering when we again will be doing anything outside of working, hanging out at home, and doing essential things. (We both are able to work at home indefinitely.)

Susie’s dad is 80 with some serious underlying health conditions and he relies on her for many things for which he has no other good options. My mom is 87 and her husband is 91 and we help them out some as well, though they do have other options.

Basically, getting COVID-19 probably would be a death sentence for them. And that means Susie and I must do everything we can to avoid getting COVID-19.

I am hopeful that at some point in the next couple of months, drugs will be found that are proven to essentially turn a sometimes deadly and damaging disease into something more like the common cold, if not cure or prevent it.

Once that happens, I would not hesitate to resume normal life.

Absent that, I’m not sure how to resume bowling — being out in groups in an indoor setting will greatly increase the chances of getting infected, which might not harm me, but almost certainly will also infect Susie and greatly endanger our parents.

The two tournaments I am signed up for later this year that matter greatly to me are the 2020 USBC Open Championships and South Point Senior Shootout. We have those scheduled as a 2-week driving trip in November.

If we’re in the same situation medically then as we are now, we may consider arranging help for Susie’s dad for the two weeks we are gone and a 2-week period of staying away from him after we get back.

November is so far away and so much may change by then, it’s hard to make any plans.

Hopefully, a lot changes for the better long before then.

I’m writing this in part to use as a cut-and-paste reference for what almost certainly will be questions about why I am not bowling before then.