Revised November 9, 2020
Updated Guidance for the Operation of Interscholastic, Youth and other Amateur Sport Activities during the COVID-19 Pandemic
In the interest of primary prevention of COVID-19 disease, the Connecticut Department of Public Health is offering revised guidance for the continued operation of sports activities for private, municipal, and interscholastic youth and adult sports leagues.This latest revision is offered given the increase in the number of infections and shift in the age distribution of cases to younger individuals currently occurring across our state, as well as , the anticipation that colder weather will force more activities indoors. The guidance is based on the recognition that by their nature of play certain sports are more likely to promote exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) through respiratory droplets.Sports organizations should pay specific attention to these risks when making a determination whether or not to engage in activities in the coming months, should inform players and parents of the risks of participation, and should be aware of any additional restrictions or requirements from their local health department or other local agencies.
While the spread of COVID-19 within and among athletic teams during practice and play presents a risk to participants and their families, there are additional potential down-stream effects of these activities as well. Most notably, the continuation of “higher risk” sports and “moderate risk” sports that are played indoors where mask wearing and other mitigation strategies cannot be used safely and effectively threatens the ability of school districts to continue to offer in-person learning opportunities. The dynamics of quarantine and isolation are such that, when individual cases appear on youth athletic teams, all children who have had contact with that case (teammates and recent opponents) are unable to attend school in-person for at least 14 days.Similarly, coaches and other adults may not be able to go to work for a 14-day period or longer.Subsequently, if that individual youth case inadvertently attended school in-person during their infectious period, their classmates and teachers may be required to quarantine and miss out on in-person learning as well.This negative effect on in-person learning could be significantly intensified in the case of youth club sports, where an individual team may involve youth from many different school districts.
Risk Categorization for Various Sports
In developing this guidance, DPH has considered guidance for risk categorization of various sports published by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, to categorize individual and team sports and the various activities common to all sports according to their differential risk for the spread of COVID-19 among teammates, between teams, and in the wider community.Table 1 lists the current risk categorizations defined by NFHS, with applicable individual sports identified for each category.
At this time, DPH recommends the following for the 2020-2021 Fall and Winter interscholastic, club, and recreational athletic seasons:
Athletic club organizers:
- develop and implement specific written protocols for strategies to be utilized during practices and contests
- provide written protocols to the appropriate local health department and participant families
- educate coaches and families about the COVID-19 risks associated with athletic activities and the need for strict compliance with protocols (including
- quarantine/isolation requirements for cases and contacts)
- keep rosters of participants for all practices and games with appropriate contact information and make that information available to health officials as needed for contact tracing
Lower Risk Sports:
- allow continued activities, up to and including in-state competition (Tier 3)
- add mitigation strategies for indoor activities (including mask wearing at all times)
- where the nature of play is such that two or more athletes would not be expected to have any close contact (i.e. tennis singles, individual running, etc.) athletes are not required to wear face coverings during active competition (face coverings should still be worn at all times by individuals not engaged in active, non-contact competition)
Moderate Risk Sports:
- allow continued activities outdoors, up to and including in-state competition between 2 teams (Tier 3)
- allow continued activities indoors, up to and including in-state competition between 2 teams (Tier 3), provided routine public health protocols for indoor activities are in place (including mask wearing by all participants, social distancing, cohorting, hygiene procedures)
- suspend indoor activities and reconsider for the Spring 2021 season where mask wearing (including during active play) and/or other appropriate mitigation strategies cannot be used
- suspend Tier 4 activities (multi-team meets or tournaments) and reconsider for the Spring 2021 season
Higher Risk Sports:
- allow continued activities outdoors, up to and including small group conditioning/skill building (Tier 1),
- allow continued activities indoors, up to and including small group conditioning/skill building (Tier 1), provided routine public health protocols for indoor activities (e.g. mask wearing by all participants, social distancing, cohorting, hygiene procedures) are in place
- Suspend all Tier 2, 3, and 4 activities and reconsider for the Spring 2021 season
Tier 5 activities (i.e. involving athletes from different states):
- suspend and reconsider for the spring 2021 season for all sports
DPH agrees that there are real and significant benefits of athletic activity for physical and mental health and well-being for both children and adults. However, DPH also agrees with NFHS and other governing bodies that not all sports are equal in their risk for their potential to spread infectious respiratory droplets, and therefore certain sports and activities have more potential to be conducive to the spread of COVID-19 infections in our communities. This, coupled with recent changes in the data trends for COVID-19 infections, our understanding of the dynamics and the role of asymptomatic drivers of spread in our communities, and our continuing experiences both within our state and nationwide with outbreak events all point to the need for a continued cautious approach to organized athletic activities.