The youth sports shutdown in Connecticut -- one caused by the coronavirus pandemic -- may soon end.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health has given student-athletes the go-ahead to start conditioning with teammates in person on Jan. 19, with competition beginning as soon as Feb. 1.
DPH acting Commissioner Deidre Gifford outlined her position on winter sports play amid the pandemic in a letter to the governing body of public high school sports in the state, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
“Although the sports pause is currently set to expire on January 19, 2021, DPH continues to recommend a cautious approach to any restart of athletic activities,” Gifford wrote.
Gifford punctuates that word of caution by sharing concerns over the high rate of local COVID-19 transmission in recent months, holiday gatherings leading to an uptick in community spread, and fear of the unknown brought on by the appearance of a virus mutation in Connecticut.
With that in mind, athletes and coaches will have to practice mitigation. Basketball and ice hockey players are to wear masks at all times, while gymnastics, indoor track and swim athletes would use them outside of their turn at play. Winter sports categorized as high-risk -- like wrestling, competitive cheerleading and competitive dance -- won’t be greenlit by DPH.
“For higher risk sports … DPH does not recommend any activities beyond small group activities and non-contact skill building for the duration of the winter season,” Gifford wrote.
Gifford addresses what it would take for a restart of Connecticut youth sports in an upcoming Connecticut Public Television special called “Cutline: Playing With COVID With Frankie Graziano.”
“I think, given where we are in the pandemic, higher-risk sports are still not going to be advisable and then, we’re going with the coaches and athletes -- around for the moderate-risk sports -- having the competitors wear masks both when they are training and competing,” Gifford said in an interview that’ll air on CPTV Jan. 21 at 8 p.m.
The CIAC acknowledged receipt of the guidance in an email sent to Connecticut Public Radio.
“We thank DPH for its timely work, detailed guidance, and continued collaboration in the safe return to interscholastic sports for CIAC member school athletes,” said John Holt, a CIAC spokesperson.
It could finalize a return to play Thursday.
“Ahead of Thursday’s CIAC Board of Control meeting, the updated guidance will be reviewed by the CIAC Sports Medicine Committee,” Holt said. “The CIAC Board of Control will consider approval of finalized winter sports plans at Thursday’s meeting.”
If a student-athlete is exposed to COVID-19, DPH typically recommends a 14-day quarantine. Anyone infected would be advised to get medical clearance. That’s aimed at reducing the chance of a student-athlete suffering any long-term health challenges associated with a COVID-19 infection.
Youth sports in Connecticut -- both public and private -- were shut down by Gov. Ned Lamont effective Nov. 23.