Athletes playing medium-risk sports in Connecticut, including hockey and basketball, will be required to wear masks while playing under new sports sector rules announced by Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday. The mask mandate does not apply to college or professional teams, and is largely focused on grades K-12.
Additionally, high-risk sports for those age groups — which include wrestling, 11-on-11 football and boys lacrosse — will not be allowed to play games for the rest of 2020. In regards to independent and private full-contact football leagues which started up in the wake of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference canceling football game play, Lamont said the new rule would likely eliminate them.
Connecticut teams will not be allowed to travel to other states for sporting events, or host teams from other states. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has already barred member schools from participating in interstate play.
“We’re doing that in association with Rhode Island, who’s doing this, and Massachusetts doing this,” said Lamont. “We’re finding that the kids have been able to make [wearing masks] work OK. ... This is really focused on K-12, doing everything we can to allow them to play sports safely.”
The new sector rules require sporting events to limit spectators, and for facilities and leagues to implement protocols for spectators, rosters and safety. Lamont said that the rules regarding rosters and spectators are to help with contact tracing, which some teams have not cooperated with.
“We’ve seen a lot of infections in and around sports, in and around hockey,” Lamont said. “We were having a hard time with some of these teams. They had an infection, we said ‘Who else was in close contact of that infected player?' and not everybody was responding. One of the rules you saw in place was if your team is going to be playing, we’d like to know who’s on the roster, and how we can contact them if there’s an infection. That way, your team can continue to play safely, and it much less likely that if a team goes back to high school or whatever it is, we’ve got the virus more contained.”
Health experts from across the state are in favor of athletes wearing masks while competing, and not just while on the sidelines or the bench.
“Wearing a mask should not be recommended, it should be mandatory, it should be mandated,” said Dr. Karl Minges, assistant professor and chair of the department of health administration and policy at the University of New Haven. "Especially if they’re doing the sports indoors. It should have been, frankly, the case for the fall as well. I know people didn’t have to put on their masks until they sat on the sidelines.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference on Thursday had previously announced it will postpone the start date of the winter high school sports season, originally scheduled for Nov. 21. The CIAC is awaiting guidance from the state Department of Public Health, and expects it to come “very soon.” It will then meet with its own sports medicine committee, review the DPH guidelines, and draft a proposal which the CIAC’s board of control will approve or deny on Nov. 17.
“The CIAC understands that, upon approval of its winter sports plan, each member school will need some time to review that document with its local health department,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini wrote in an email to member school athletic directors.
Shawn McFarland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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