At its September 3 meeting, the CIAC Board of Control reviewed DPH’s response to its August 28 letter requesting support of (1) modifications which lower the risk of indoor volleyball; (2) low to moderate risk activities in football; and (3) an opportunity to re-assess the viability high risk full contact football based on COVID metrics at the end of September or early October.
In its September 3 letter to CIAC, the DPH stated, “With regard to CIAC’s consideration of additional mitigation strategies for indoor girls’ volleyball and football that may lower their risks for person-to-person respiratory droplet spread, DPH has suggested that CIAC consider modifications to higher risk activities, and we continue to encourage such modifications. Absent such modifications, DPH is unlikely to support higher-risk activities for the Fall term. We would also recommend that CIAC consult with your sports medicine committee before implementing significant changes to how high school sports are played in our state so that any potential unintended consequences of those changes (including increased risk of injury) can be fully vetted prior to implementation.”
In alignment with DPH’s recommendation to consult its sports medicine committee, the CIAC and its medical experts believe that the modification of wearing masks mitigates the risk expressed by DPH and provides a safe indoor environment for the sport of volleyball. As such, with the modification of players wearing masks indoors, the CIAC has aligned volleyball with DPH’s previous support of full team practice and game schedules for soccer, field hockey, cross country, and swimming.
In regard to football, the CIAC Board of Control has provided DPH with updated statements from the NFHS that reflect its position on 11 v 11 football and the success of other states that are currently playing full-contact football. The CIAC also provided an updated timeline that reflected an opportunity to evaluate sufficient COVID data after an approximate 3 to 4-week return to school. Previously, the CIAC provided its position that COVID metrics continue to support the playing of high-risk sports in Connecticut, as they have since July 6, and has emphasized the value that football provides its student-athletes from a physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and mental health standpoint. In doing so, the CIAC feels it has exhausted all possible scenarios in seeking DPH support for a full-contact football experience this fall.
However, DPH has made it clear that it is “unlikely to support higher-risk activities for the Fall term.” Given DPH’s position, the CIAC is obligated to provide its student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and superintendents with a clear direction on football activities that aligns with DPH recommendations. Without DPH support, the CIAC cannot move forward with a full-contact season as it would place superintendents and boards of education in the impossible position of acting against the recommendation of a state agency.
As such, the CIAC Board of Control, in alignment with DPH recommendations, has determined that high-risk full-contact football is no longer a viable option. In alignment with DPH’s encouragement to consider modifications to higher risk activities, the CIAC will collaborate with athletic directors, coaches, and medical experts to provide football players with meaningful low to moderate risk fall activities. While the CIAC’s fall sports offerings are now aligned with DPH recommendations, it still stresses that progression to full team practices and moderate risk activities on September 21 and gameplay on October 1 is dependent on COVID metrics that support such activities. The CIAC will remain fluid in providing the safest experiences possible for our student-athletes and will continue to consider any future changes in DPH recommendations for fall sports activities.