News Story

Data Doesn’t Support Narrative Of 'School Sports Caused The Surge'

Media outlets have claimed that youth sports are responsible for the latest surge of COVID-19 cases in Michigan.

WDET carried an April 7 story with the headline: “Michigan’s Latest Wave of COVID-19 Infections Being Driven by Youth Sports, Child Care.”

“Unlike previous surges, Michigan’s latest wave of COVID-19 infections is being driven by young people,” the article said.

But state data doesn’t back up that claim.

Instead, it shows there have been only 1,189 cases from K-12 sports and youth club/travel sports from Jan. 1 to Apr. 17. That’s 0.35% of all cases over that period.

High school sports were on pause until Feb. 8, which might have contributed to their low COVID incidence figures. But even if all those 1,189 cases began after Feb. 8, they would still account for just 0.47% of all cases since Feb. 8. And even if they had all occurred between April 2 to April 17, they would represent just 1% of all cases for that period.

According to state data, there are 312 "ongoing" and "new" COVID outbreaks involving K-12 schools out of a total of 1,261. The second highest source of outbreaks was 224 in "manufacturing" and "construction." However, public schools are far more likely to report a COVID outbreak than the private sector categories that include social gatherings, offices, restaurant and bars. The state acknowledges that in its report when it states its data may have "significant underreporting."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Michigan pause indoor sports to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The state of Michigan will nevertheless impose a testing mandate on athletes age 13 to 19 beginning April 2.

The Michigan Department of Health And Human Services said cases among young people are increasing.

"Cases among young Michiganders are among the highest levels since the pandemic started with ages 0-9 averaging 401.4 cases per day and ages 10-19 averaging 1150.9 cases per day (slide 11) MI COVID response Data and modeling update (," MDHHS spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin stated in an email. "Both of these age groups are showing week over week over week growth. Outbreaks involving schools - 43 new ones - overall (slide 17) are also increasing as well as outbreaks at child care/youth programs which increased by 21 outbreaks. The only age group with higher average cases is the 20-29 age group, which still qualifies as young Michiganders. I believe the article points to the fact that Michigan’s latest wave of COVID-19 infections is being driven by young people. Sports is part of that increase, but not the entire cause of it. I don’t see where Dr. Lyon-Callo says its all due to sports, just the headline written by WDET."


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.