The Connecticut Inter Athletic Conference has approved the beginning of practices on Jan. 19, and games on Feb. 8, for high school winter sports, according to a report released today.
Sports that are classified as “high risk” — competitive cheerleading, dance and wrestling — will not hold competitions. They will be limited to small group conditioning and non-contact skill building.
“Moderate-risk sports” — basketball, ice hockey, and gymnastics — will be allowed to compete, but athletes must wear face masks at all times, including in competition. Basketball and ice hockey will have mask breaks built into competitions. Swimming, which is considered low risk, will also be allowed to host competitions. Each of these sports can host a maximum of 12 competitions or meets within the season.
Indoor track, while being classified as a moderate risk sport, will not be allowed to host meets because of the large gatherings that the sport draws. Lungarini said that in March, the conference will evaluate whether track teams can host dual meets or meets outside if the weather permits.
Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the conference, said that the guidelines were created after speaking with the state Department of Public Health, the governor’s office and the conference’s sports medicine committee.
The conference has also decided to cancel the state winter championships. Lungarini said this was to allow schools to be more flexible with their seasons. He said that while he’d heard from some schools that were ready to begin on January 19, others wanted to take more time, possibly postponing the start of the season until the first of February.
“As our schools are returning from the New Year … we recognize that the variability around the state will probably be a bit more than normal for the next few weeks,” he said.
Individuals leagues will be allowed to have championships in March.
The continued challenge of COVID
Sports allowed to compete will have to follow strict rules, including social distancing when sitting on the sidelines, sanitizing any equipment used and limiting spectators. For sports like gymnastics and swimming, the teams are encouraged to conduct “virtual meets,” where athletes compete at their home gym or pool and then post their times or a video of their performance to be judged remotely.
The conference is asking teams to have athletes sign a waiver acknowledging that they were made aware of the risks of COVID-19, on recommendation from the Department of Health.
According to Lungarini, the data show that sports activities have a low risk of transmission and that the majority of spread that has occurred within sports teams came from outside activities.
A document put out by the conference quoted Department of Public Health data that found that sports were responsible for 17 school closures, 235 teacher quarantines, 1,500 student quarantines and 29 outbreaks in the fall. According to a survey that the conference circulated to its member schools, out of 133 schools, seven cases were traced back to official school sporting events.
Still, Lungarini said that teams and leagues should be prepared for the fact that there may be teams that have to quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus.
“We are still playing in a COVID pandemic. We have to understand that there will be disruptions to the schedule,” he said.
Although there is no specific metric that would determine when the conference would pause play due to COVID cases, Lungarini said that they would continue to monitor the case numbers in the schools.
“If the COVID environment creates a situation that is unsafe, we will shut down,” said Lungarini.
The conference also considered and rejected other possibilities, including an alternative season that would go from February 22 to April 17, and allowing winter sports to be played during the spring season. Lungarini said that moving winter sports to the spring season would create conflicts with too many athletes who compete in both winter and spring sports.
The winter sports season will officially end on March 28. Spring sports are set to begin on the 29th.