Friday, April 9, 2021

AAU is holding a 17,000 person youth volleyball tourney in Florida right now

AAU is holding a 17,000 person youth volleyball tourney in Florida right now

With the NBA and WNBA bubbles in full effect another sporting event is set to begin in Orlando starting Tuesday. The 2020 AAU Junior National Volleyball Tournament is expected to bring 17,000 people to the region from all over the country, and it’s still going ahead despite the state’s skyrocketing number of Covid-19 cases, which now sits at over 282,000 confirmed cases.

The tournament, starting at the Orange County convention center, had been delayed multiple times due to Coronavirus, but is now going ahead under what the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) calls “numerous safeguards,” which includes requiring non-athletes to wear masks, no fans being in attendance, temperature checks, and social distancing measures. However, justification for holding the event right now in one of the nation’s largest Covid hotspots is shaky at best.

AAU has a video posted from Orlando Health doctor Don Plumley explaining how the event will take place with health and safety measures in place; however, according to the Internet Archive this video was posted on June 8th, and has not been updated or adjusted since. This was prior to the dramatic spike in Florida Covid cases, which took place in mid-late June, when confirmed cases rose fourfold from 64,904 to its current number.

Additionally holding the tournament now breaks CDC recommended guidelines on Covid-19 safety, as well as seemingly running counter to Covid-skeptic Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ own recommendation about avoiding crowded places.

Considering these factors how is a large-scale youth sporting event being allowed to take place in the middle of one of the highest risk areas during a pandemic? The Orlando Sentinel has been trying to gain information from Orange County about the financial dealings that led to the event taking place, but have been rebuffed. Local taxpayers are giving the AAU $150,000 for holding the event, without any information being offered on what the county is getting in return from the AAU. Resources are so stretched in the area that the Orange County Convention Center, where the volleyball tournament is taking place, has even been looked at as a potential field hospital to deal with hospital overflow, with the Army Corps of Engineers visiting the site as recently as this week to determine its viability.

To its credit, the convention center itself has received Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR accreditation for its disinfecting and cleaning regimen, but this does not mean the event if “safe” by any stretch of the imagination. On Monday the NBA bubble was breached for the first time when Richaun Holmes went outside to accept a food delivery, without thinking of the ramifications. The AAU Junior National Volleyball Tournament will have nowhere near the same level of protection as the NBA, with additional risks of thousands of more competitors, eventually returning to their home states after spending significant time in Florida.

The impact of holding the event right now will not be known for weeks, but by all suggestions and indications it shouldn’t be happening at all right now.

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