TullyRunners - Article
by Bill Meylan (Oct 6, 2020)
The Covid-19 Pandemic has created many problems for High School Cross Country nationwide and in New York State. I am a big fan High School Cross Country and follow it closely for my speed rating purposes. The cancellation of the NXN National Championships and Foot Locker Championships is a huge disappointment ... It deprives many outstanding runners of a "life-time opportunity", and that disappoints me greatly.
Why am I writing this article:
The NY State XC season has recently started for some schools and sections ... I decide to make some comments about the current situation in NY, and that will be first topic of this article ... Second, I am again getting inquiries about "Who is this guy posting speed ratings?" ... I will address these topics and interject some personal opinions ... and try to be brief.
NY State High School Cross Country
Not sure "chaotic" is the best description, but as an independent observer, it seems to fit ... NY State has four athletic associations:
1. NYSPHSAA (NY State Public High School Athletic
The PSAL and NYSAIS are not doing sports this fall ... the CHSAA has started XC races, but will be limiting races to only 4K or 2.5-mile races with a limited number of teams (4 as of now).
The NYSPHSAA is the "chaotic" association ... The NYSPHSAA is comprised of 11 Sections, and some sections will be running XC this fall and some will not ... In the sections that are running, some schools will be competing and some have opted out ... Rules about what will be allowed vary greatly, some between sections, some between leagues and even some with individual schools.
The NYSPHSAA has decided to leave control to the individual sections ... and some individual sections have given control to the individual leagues ... I'm actually disappointed the NYSPHSAA has not taken more of a leading role in providing some basic rules for all schools ... But I understand it, because the NYSPHSAA has cancelled all State Championships and they probably don't want to be involved in intra-section arguments.
Here is an example ... I posted the results for the Saratoga-Guilderland Dual Meet with some information about how the meet was conducted ... one team runs the course, leaves and the other team arrives and runs the course ... I'm not a fan of that, but it's their decision ... What I just found out was that the Saratoga girls did not have to wear masks during their race (time trial) while the Guilderland girls had to wear masks ... Obviously not fair.
I heard the Tully girl's league was considering masks during races (I don't know the current status and I don't really care any more because I'm disappointed it was ever seriously considered ... Were public comments and presentation of available data ever allowed during this process??) ... As to wearing masks during races, one person noted "it is like NASCAR adding another restrictor plate to a car" ... I don't know if this beyond the NYSPHSAA purview or not ...... Guess what, I just found out (via Twitter from the head of Section 3 Athletics) that the NYS Dept. of Health guidance (Oct 5) now states that if six feet separation cannot be maintained, participants in the game are required to wear a face covering, unless they cannot tolerate a face covering during physical activity.
Most XC meets in NY are going to be small dual meets ... Many or most sectional and league championship meets have been cancelled ... I'm disappointed for the kids losing another opportunity and motivating goal ... But personally, I'm losing interest in NY high school competition as it exists, and that's a real personal disappointment.
I know ... It's all about the safety of the kids ... The scientist in me has looked at the available data and believes the safety of the kids would not be effected by more competitive-allowing protocols currently being practiced the US ... and I'm disappointed because it is too late to change things due to the politics that would be required.
Covid Infection in Central NY
NY State as a whole has one of the lowest infection rates in the nation ... As Governor Cuomo noted yesterday in a new briefing, the infection rate remains around 1% despite several clusters of infection that are being addressed.
Onondaga County (Syracuse and suburbs) has one of the best school testing systems in the nation ... County Executive Ryan McMahon noted in his news briefing yesterday that the 7-day rolling average infection rate is 0.67% ... in a previous news briefing, he reported that an infection rate as low as 0.28% had been observed on one occasion when all the nasal-swab and saliva-swab test were combined, and he noted that the infection can't get much lower than that.
The infection rate is a major factor in determining safety risk and Onondaga County passes that marker very nicely! I know people and parents are afraid and worried about Covid, and they have a right to be ... But the risk should be considered in relation to the benefit of attending school in-person and participating in sports for those who choose to do it ... Parents and Individuals who want to opt-out have that option.
A Vaccine Will Not Fix Everything
Various NY associations, sections and schools have opted-out of fall sports ... The reasons vary, but some believe the infection rates will be better when the "Fall II" season begins on March 1, 2021 ... I hate to be the pessimist, but the data and projections do not support this.
Briefly, the current vaccines in Phase-3 trials are expecting an effectiveness of 50-60% (hoping for 70%) ... The FDA is requiring a minimum of 50% ... Last year's flu vaccine was roughly 45% effective, and that was considered decent.
I personally want a Covid vaccination and will try to get vaccinated as soon as possible ... the 50% is OK with me ... I wanted to be part of a Phase-3 trial since I'm 70-years old and have one the comorbidities listed the by NYSDOH Dashboard (A-Fib).
The second part of a vaccine getting us "back to normal" is the number of people who will actually get vaccinated ... the estimates vary, but it appears that nearly 50% the populace will not get vaccinated any time soon (within a year) ... So a 50% effectiveness and 50% coverage means only 25% of the populace will be Covid-safe and 75% will be the same as they are now ... That 25% is important and a good start to limiting infections. However, projections include "how people act" and it is quite possible that too many people will start "acting badly" because there is a vaccine and the virus-spread will increase until enough people are vaccinated ... and mass vaccinations are unlikely until the middle of 2021 (but I hope sooner).
Dr. Anthony Fauci says a vaccine alone is not going to "get us to the point where we want to be, by the end of 2021."
I hate to say it, but Covid is not going anywhere for while ... expect to wear masks through 2021 (also from Dr. Fauci) ... As much as I dislike it, learning to live with the virus is necessary ... Protection is required, but not over-protection based on fears ... Protection should be based on the data, and people who choose, should be allowed to proceed with their lives when the data indicates it.
My Take ... the Covid infection is low in NY right now ... Take advantage of that situation now ... It may not be any better for the next year or more ... There are no data currently indicating a major improvement for the 2021 Fall Sports season ... A Break-Through therapeutic is the one thing that could change it ... I wanted the NY high school kids to get a chance now while the infection rate is low ... I'm disappointed that's not going to happen.
The lack of championship competition or any meaningful competition is making the Fall of 2020 very disappointing when it doesn't need to be ... Other areas of the country are conducting XC decently ... Why can't New York? ... The safety of the kids is not the problem ... The mentality, fears, and concerns of parent, teachers, administrators, and government regulators is way beyond my influence ..... and in retrospect, myself or any similar scientist was never given an opportunity to present scientifically formatted data to try an influence those who make decisions, and that's disappointing.
Who is Bill Meylan?
Bill Meylan is a crazy guy who is interested in speed rating horses (for betting purposes) and speed rating high school cross country runners simply because he is crazy.
A number of viewers have googled my name and found a William M. Meylan (who happens to be me) ... and he is some kind of environmental scientist. The viewers ask about my science background and its association with speed rating ... and who is Bill Meylan?
Briefly, I have a degree in Chemical Engineering from Clarkson University ... and the "engineering" aspect of my professional life has been helpful in things like speed rating because it adapts "real life" application with solution ... and I have been involved in database design and use, statistical analysis, data retrieval and estimation, and computer programming.
I was fortunate to to get a job as an Environmental Scientist at Syracuse University Research Corp (SURC) in 1975 (my first "company badge" was an SU faculty card) ... SURC became SRC (Syracuse Research Corp) an independent educational research entity that finally evolved into SRC Inc. (https://www.srcinc.com/) ... Currently, I am technically "retired", but classified as a "casual employee" which mean I still work infrequently when help is needed (especially on projects I worked on in the past ... and I get the annual employee appreciation gift).
SRC inc. is primarily a government contractor ... My division mostly does work for the US Environmental Protection Agency and other governmental regulator agencies.
The Covid-19 Pandemic brought several Federal governmental agencies to public attention ... for example, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and NIH (National Institutes of Health).
During my tenure at SRC Inc., I have worked on projects for all three of these governmental agencies, and SRC still has contracts with two agencies.
I am very familiar with scientific review. Everything produced by my division at SRC Inc. goes through an internal scientific review ... It then goes through a scientific review by the governmental agencies involved such as the three above and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Part of my responsibility at SRC Inc. was to publish journal articles that go through scientific review ... I developed a number of new computer estimation methods for chemical and physical properties and environmental fate and transport properties ... and having these published in peer-reviewed science journals gave credibility to the EPA's use of them in evaluating the chemicals for regulator purposes ... The computer suite of the programs I developed is available for free from the EPA and is used by many regulator agencies around the world.
I am the co-author of several dozen peer-reviewed journal articles and two books (most listed here) ... I am the prime author of articles appearing in the following journals:
Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
I have also been a manuscript reviewer for several scientific journals. I have given a number of presentations at various scientific workshops and conferences such as the International QSAR Workshop of 2008 held in Syracuse.
I actually read selected articles about Covid in various scientific journals and read the Supplemental Data available from the authors to evaluate the article as if I was a reviewer ... Sometimes the article and supplemental material is quite different than what gets reported in the news.
But really, I'm just a boring guy ... I prefer to hide in the shadows and speed rate XC races as faceless entity ... Unfortunately, one photo still exists on the Internet (when I was an active volunteer coach, which I no longer am) ... I had no idea the guy taking the photo and asking questions was writing for Runners World (I didn't know about the article until Bill Aris and a parent told me).