Connecticut high school athletes will continue to wear masks amid COVID peak

Connecticut high school athletes, coaches and athletic officials will need to continue to wear masks during indoor competitions as COVID cases continue to rise statewide, a spokesperson for Governor Ned said on Wednesday. Lamont.

Initial plans called for students competing indoors during the winter season to be able to remove masks for competition if they were vaccinated starting December 23. But due to a spike in COVID cases, those plans have been put on hold.

“We said when these guidelines were released that the rules would change subject to a fluid and dynamic COVID situation,” Lamont spokesperson Max Reiss said. “And with the increase in cases, we want to continue to provide the greatest possible protection to students, staff and those involved in high school athletics.”

Connecticut’s COVID infection rate reported Wednesday was the highest for an average of seven days since the state began large-scale testing last year. There were 3,366 new cases discovered on Wednesday, resulting in a daily positivity rate of 8.93 percent. The seven-day average reached 7.78 percent.

The state’s daily positivity rate had dropped to 1.52% on October 29, but has risen steadily since then. However, the governor has yet to call for a statewide mask requirement or other COVID-related mandates.

Wearing a mask remains compulsory in schools, regardless of the pupils’ vaccination status. As most districts continued despite an increase in COVID cases, schools in Greenwich and Stamford announced this week that they will start vacation early.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school athletics, was set to move forward Wednesday with athletes, officials and coaches removing masks starting Thursday. CIAC director Glenn Lungarini told a reporter from Hearst Connecticut, ahead of the governor’s office decision, that he expected some schools to continue to wear masks regardless of immunization status a once the requirement is removed.

The original plan also included a number of caveats. For example, referees were allowed to remove masks for basketball and hockey games, but had to continue to wear them, regardless of their vaccination status, for other winter sports. Additionally, if a vaccinated athlete comes into close contact with a person who tests positive, the athlete will need to wear a mask.

Winter sports include basketball, hockey, indoor track and field, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming for boys and cheering / dancing.

Wrestlers, swimmers, gymnasts and track and field athletes who throw or jump can compete without a mask since the start of the regular season. Once they are done, however, they are required to put their masks back on.

A letter was sent to member schools last week because “we saw an issue with sports teams not meeting masking requirements,” Lungarini said. “We reiterate the expectations and the need for all COVID protocols to have the best chance of having a full season. “

The letter stated that in the event of non-compliance with COVID protocols, “that the CIAC Control Board has the authority and the duty to apply its rules and regulations and, if deemed necessary, to assess sanctions, including, but not limited to, fines, probation or prohibition (elimination from state tournaments).

Lungarini acknowledged that there had already been postponements of this session due to COVID-19. But there are no plans to suspend the season.

“Postponements are always anticipated. This same concern existed in the fall particularly in the sport of football. We have had very few unfinished games, ”said Lungarini. “Our winter sports schedule gives us more flexibility in preparing and rescheduling matches. We are confident that while we expect COVID to have an impact on programming, we will be able to compete in full seasons and host state championships.

“The only context in which the season suspension was mentioned (at Tuesday’s athletic directors meeting) was that if we don’t adhere to the COVID protocols that we know to be effective, we risk creating a situation where we may not be able to compete. seasons. We don’t want to have any discussions about the closure. To avoid this, we must strictly adhere to COVID mitigation strategies. “

Dan Haar contributed to this report.

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