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Department Of Health Does Not Change Stance On Football



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Despite the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s efforts to make traditional 11 versus 11 football a safe sport to be played this fall amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) is not changing its stance that the sport is considered “higher risk,” and therefore should not be played this fall.

DPH Acting Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford, MD, MPH, in a September 14 letter to CAS-CIAC Executive Director Glenn M. Lungarini and CIAC board members, showed appreciation for the CIAC’s efforts to make football a fall reality.

Representatives of the CIAC, its sports medicine committee, the Connecticut Department of Health (DPH), and the governor’s office met in Hartford to discuss the CIAC’s strategies for COVID mitigation relating to the sport of football on September 11.

In the letter, it reads that the DPH agrees that most of the COVID mitigation strategies suggested by CIAC “align well with the generally accepted public health recommendations for reducing the spread of COVID-19.” Despite this, the DPH concludes that there is not enough evidence that these strategies, including use of cloth coverings on face shields, will be enough to stop the spread.

A portion of the DPH letter reads: “To our knowledge, and as affirmed by representatives of the CIAC Sports Medicine Committee on our September 11th call, there is currently no scientific information available to determine: (1) the effectiveness of plastic shields that attach to the helmet or a cloth covering over the front grill portion of the helmet in preventing the spread of respiratory droplets among players and (2) that these specific prevention measures are safe for high school players to use during play. Without any additional data or documentation, DPH could not definitively say whether or not these technologies are safe to use or could be expected to work effectively from an infection control or epidemiologic perspective to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Nor could we assert that they would change the categorization of full contact football from “higher risk” to “moderate risk.” DPH continues to recommend substituting athletic or any other activities that could be considered “moderate risk” or “lower risk” in place of “higher risk” ones and/or postponing those activities to a later time when other public health strategies may be more available and better studied.”

High school teams have continued to practice and prepare for a football experience of some sort. Holding out hope that a traditional season might take place, the fallback considerations are for 7 versus 7 football, competitions and clinics, and for the sport to be pushed into the spring — the latter planned in some states and an idea rejected by the CIAC earlier in September.

Newtown High School football players practice at Blue & Gold Stadium in early September. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
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