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Off The Mat: Illini Wrestlers Sidelined
University of Illinois wrestling team latest casualty of Gov. Pritzker's shadowy SHIELD testing program
The University of Illinois wrestling team began its 2021-22 season with rightful enthusiasm.
Ranked #18 in the country, the school’s roster is filled with several Chicagoland athletes who come from familiar high schools such as Montini Catholic, Lyons Township, Libertyville, Barrington and Evanston.
Competing in the Big Ten, inarguably the best wrestling conference in the country, Illinois, by all accounts, is a program on the rise.
In its season-opening tournament at Michigan State on November 6, 10 wrestlers placed in the top six.
“We had a great pre-season and the wrestlers and coaches were excited to finally start competing again,” Illini head coach Mike Poeta told FightingIllini.com.
This weekend, the Illini were scheduled to compete in a tournament in North Carolina.
But Tuesday, it all came to a screeching halt.
Illinois announced it would be staying home this weekend due to “COVID-19 issues” within the program. Here is the full release:
The Fighting Illini wrestling team has withdrawn from a scheduled appearance at the Mountaineer Invitational in Boone, North Carolina, on Sunday, Nov. 14, due to COVID-19 issues within the Illinois program. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution surrounding the health and safety of the tournament's participants.
Of note, since the return of collegiate sports in the fall of 2020, this is the first time any Illinois team has needed to cancel a competition because of internal COVID-19 concerns – it concludes a streak of more than 400 consecutive Fighting Illini athletic events without self-imposed COVID-19 disruption. Illinois wrestlers are next scheduled to compete Nov. 20 at the Lindenwood Open in St. Charles, Missouri.
Can we just retire the phrase “abundance of caution?” If I hear it again, I may just eat my shorts. Or gag my neighbor with a spoon.
Or better yet, why are colleges in November 2021 still testing healthy athletes, all of whom in their late teens or early 20’s, for COVID-19?
Make no mistake. That’s the culprit here. Testing. And because it’s Illinois, SHIELD rears it’s ugly head again.
The University of Illinois in Champaign is the incubator for Shield Illinois COVID-19 testing. First developed at the outset of what in March 2020 was a viral pandemic, it evolved into a device for Governor J.B. Pritzker to gain political equity within the Democratic Party.
A year ago, Pritzker and his staff were pitching (or strong arming) the spit test to school administrators all over Chicagoland desperately trying to open campus doors for in-person learning.
Then, many districts believed testing to be the only way. But the tests were expensive and not authorized by the federal government, despite false claims by Pritzker and other politicians to the contrary
From a April 2021 Patch article:
In the fall, Shield Illinois officials, Pritzker and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) falsely claimed in public statements and news releases that the test had won emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
At the time, Shield Illinois was allowed to continue using its testing system at the Urbana-Champaign campus. But plans for a statewide rollout of saliva testing remained delayed because the federal government hadn't authorized the test for emergency use.
Despite the setback, Shield Illinois officials continued trying to sell school district officials on using their brand of saliva tests at the same time SafeGuard pitched its surveillance testing that was already up and running.
Both saliva testing providers, for instance, made their pitch to New Trier High School.
Johnson, New Trier's associate superintendent, said SafeGuard was prepared to begin testing at New Trier in October for $11-a-spit-sample. Shield Illinois officials said their saliva tests — which couldn't be rolled out without federal emergency use authorization — would cost the school district $20 each with testing expected to start in November, Johnson said.
Ultimately, district officials inked a deal with SafeGuard to avoid paying nearly double for testing that would delay getting students back to in-person learning.
"Shield said, 'We're not up and running, and we're twice as much money.' And if we had taken them on at their word that they would have been ready in November, we wouldn't have had kids back. Dr. Campbell's process allowed us to get kids back," Johnson said.
Once the feds kicked in billions of dollars to increase testing in schools, Pritzker was made whole. He could offer his pet project, Shield Illinois, free of charge.
“It will help schools open for in-person learning and keep faculty and students healthy and safe,” Pritzker said in the early summer about the testing program.
By late summer of 2021, 50 percent of public schools across the state took the bait and signed up for the testing regimen.
Only Shield Illinois wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Staffing shortages and questions of false positives derailed the roll out. Schools may have been open for in-person learning, but an unintended consequence of regular testing are the quarantining of students, forced into remote learning by over testing and questionable results.
What exactly is the upside? Many K-12 schools continue to quarantine or “exclude” students because of Shield Illinois and testing policies.
None of these quarantines would be necessary if no one knew if a student had Covid.
Isn’t that what public health officials and school administrators insist the masks are for anyway? To “protect” students and keep them “safe” and keep school open five days a week?
Here’s the daily Covid report from District 214, a large unit district in the Northwest Suburbs:
That’s 32 students today not in class, hundreds of lost class hours.
How’s that mask mandate working out?
The entire exercise amounts to a game of political extortion, overseen by the Dark Lord, Pritzker.
This brings us back to the situation this week with the University of Illinois wrestling team.
In its statement, the team said it was withdrawing from the invitational “due to COVID-19 issues within the program.”
What could those issues be?
“‘Covid issues’ could mean positive tests,” University of Illinois Associate Athletic Director of Media Relations William Kent Brown told The Kerr Report. “(Or) contact tracing.”
We know contact tracing protocols can’t be activated without a positive test first.
Let’s make the jump and assume the issues around the Illinois wrestling program involve positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing.
As we know, there are clear distinctions in public health policy between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. The University of Illinois is no different.
According to Brown, “more than 95 percent of our student-athletes are vaccinated.” While he would not confirm the specific number of vaccinated wrestlers, he said, “the wrestling squad falls in line with the all student-athletes as in more than 95 percent (vaccinated).”
There are 36 wrestlers listed on the team’s official website. If there are “more than 95 percent” vaccinated, that would mean 34 or 35 of them are vaccinated.
That leaves one or two unvaccinated.
University policy makes these distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated in regards to testing:
If you are identified as a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 (by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, the university or by the individual themselves) and you are fully vaccinated, you should test 3-5 days after exposure if you do not experience symptoms.
If you do experience symptoms, you should quarantine and test immediately. Recent data shows the Delta variant viral load may continue to be high for several days after onset of symptoms. By quarantining and testing immediately, you help protect those around you and prevent many more potential infections from occurring.
You should also take an on-campus COVID-19 test if you experience COVID-19-like symptoms such as: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, muscle or body aches or diarrhea or return from travel
If you are not fully vaccinated with a university-verified record and you do not have an approved medical or religious vaccination exemption: you are required to test and receive negative results every other day until you are fully vaccinated.
We don’t know if the one or two unvaccinated Illini wrestlers received a medical or religious exemption. If they had, they’d still be required to test every other day.
Here’s an interesting sidebar guideline stuck at the bottom of the testing page, positioned like a footnote but important in unpacking what may have happened in Champaign:
If you are contacted by the university because you are in an area with significant increases in positive cases (more than one case in the last three days OR three or more cases in the last seven days), everyone in that location (vaccinated and unvaccinated) will be required to test every other day for a period of time until cases improve.
According to the university’s COVID-19 data dashboard page, over the last two-week reporting timeframe ending Nov. 8, 291 new cases were detected after 30,500 tests. Over two week’s prior, 44 cases were reported from 29,000 tests.
More tests, more positive cases.
One thing Brown also said was how “our student-athletes follow all campus protocols. However, they often have additional protocols on top of the general student body that are followed to keep teammates, roommates, coaches and staff all as safe as possible” adding “we have the option of additional testing for our student-athletes should the situation arise.”
A situation likely arose due to a new targeting testing methodology at the university.
Here’s how it works:
If two or more residents in any building test positive for COVID-19 in the span of three days, or three or more residents test positive in a week, all building occupants must test every other day until cases decrease, regardless of their vaccination statuses
There are 28 housing sites that currently meet the “outbreak” criteria and are subjected to increased testing regimes, according to the university. Those housing locations are non-university residence halls like apartments or off-campus residences, or university properties such as dormitories or frat/sorority houses.
Wrestlers in Champaign, like all college athletes, reside in both university or non-university housing locations. Those types of locations are currently subjected to more rigorous testing under the new targeting testing guidelines.
And there’s this piece of data –– so far in November, of the 230 reported cases on campus, 177 are breakthrough cases.
We wouldn’t know this information, of course, if students and athletes weren’t being tested every goddamn minute, courtesy of Shield Illinois.
If they weren’t being tested every goddamn minute, students would be able to go to class, go home, have parties, go to the bars, go cheer on the wrestling team, you know, do normal college-student things; the athletes would be able to wrestle, go home, go to parties, hang out with their friends, you know, normal college things and if they weren’t being tested every goddamn minute no one would know who had Covid.
And everyone would be just fine. Because college students are in their late teens and early 20’s are of virtually no health risk from the virus.
In it’s statement, the Illini wrestling team said, “Of note, since the return of collegiate sports in the fall of 2020, this is the first time any Illinois team has needed to cancel a competition because of internal COVID-19 concerns – it concludes a streak of more than 400 consecutive Fighting Illini athletic events without self-imposed COVID-19 disruption.”
Brown confirmed to The Kerr Report how “not traveling to the tournament was self-imposed. There were no other guidelines that prevented the team, as we might have enough wrestlers who were not part of the protocol able to compete. Out of caution for all participants, it was decided our team would not travel to North Carolina.”
I’m not going to go after the leaders of the wresting program for their self-imposed isolation this weekend. I could, but I’m not. I feel for the athletes, denied this weekend an opportunity to compete. Hopefully, they will be sidelined for just this one tournament and can resume their season.
It’s high-ranking university officials, the president, those in charge of public health, those that approve and put in place these reckless policies, with all of this nonsensical testing, that should be scrutinized and the target of outrage.
The Fighting Illini should be traveling this weekend to North Carolina to participate in a wrestling tournament.
But they can’t because Pritzker, the Master of Puppets, has everyone wrapped around his corrupt finger, with both middle ones flashing double barrels back at the citizens of this state.
He’s been doing it for 20 months. This story is another casualty to his war on personal freedoms, self-determination and common sense.
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