Effects of virus start to be felt here

So is it panic? Or prudence?

The cascading decisions this week to close down schools, colleges, large public gatherings, entertainment and sports venues to avoid possible exposure to COVID-19 have both been praised and criticized.

By late Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had moved to shut down all public schools in Michigan through April 5, starting Monday. The announcement came as officials said 10 more COVID-19 cases had surfaced in the state, raising the tally to 12.

All of Michigan’s 15 public universities had already decided to shift to online classes or other methods for a few weeks or longer.

So students, parents, teachers and administrators across the state are left scrambling to set up alternatives to being in class.

Likely the final perspective on whether these steps were warranted won’t be apparent for some time, perhaps weeks, perhaps months.

It’s even possible both views might prove true: if the level of coronavirus infections in the end is low, was it an overreaction or because such measures were enacted? Hindsight always is 20-20.

Experts for the most part have called the move necessary to help stem the virus, given widespread testing is not yet available to gauge the extent it has spread.

Yet the timing has been bitter for young athletes — to get to tournament or state championship time only to be denied the chance to pursue a title in their sports.

It’s particularly painful for the Iron Mountain boys basketball team, which came within a few seconds of winning it all in 2019 only to have it slip away in controversy. Now 21-1, the Mountaineers had set their sights on a return to East Lansing.

The halt to the tournament means that goal might be lost.

As disappointing the news was to Iron Mountain head coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson, who also is father to senior guard Marcus Johnson, he said Thursday he fully understands and supports the decision.

“There’s things in life that are bigger than basketball and this is one of those moments. You never want to put people at risk. So if the health experts say it’s a no, then it’s a no,” coach Johnson said.

“But we tried to keep it positive with the kids because we still hold out hope. They said suspended, not cancelled. Until someone tells us we’re not playing it, we’re going to hold out hope.”

“Bigger than basketball” proved to be a common theme Thursday. The University of Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan State University Spartans, co-Big 10 champions along with Maryland, saw the season end Thursday not on the court but in an official statement by the Big 10 and then the NCAA, canceling further play.

It has to hurt. But UW head coach Greg Gard put it in perspective, both for his players and for the public.

“What I tried to focus with them was this is bigger than basketball,” Gard said.

“And now you end it with this? The coronavirus that cancels the NCAA Tournament? You can’t make this stuff up.”


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