Department of Public Health Recommends Postponing Football, Girls Volleyball Until Spring

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The Connecticut Department of Public Health is recommending postponing football and girls volleyball at Connecticut schools until the spring.

The recommendations are part of a larger set of guidelines regarding all school sports sent to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference on Thursday.

A letter from the acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health, Deirdre Gifford, containing the guidelines, which was addressed to CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini, was sent a day after the CIAC Board of Directors voted to move forward with all fall sports seasons.

According to the letter, Lungarini had conversations with DPH staff on Sunday and Monday and then asked the DPH for written recommendations on Wednesday, the same day the CIAC Board of Directors made the decision to move ahead with fall sports. The letter with the recommendations was sent on Thursday.

"The position that we have from DPH right now is very different than what our understanding previously was so we appreciate the context and the information that we have," Lungarini said Thursday afternoon. "We were up against a timeline because we're set to begin [football practice] on Monday and our staff --our coaches -- do need some planning time and some direction. So we felt that we made the best decision at the time with the information we had."

The guidelines consider football as "higher risk" for COVID transmission based on assessments from the National Federation of State High School Associations and the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. Because of that, the Department of Public Health recommended postponing the football season until spring.

Girls volleyball was considered a "moderate-risk" sport, but the DPH recommended postponing that season until spring as well due to the "fact that activities for this sport are occurring indoors and involve significant physical exertion and forceful communication with teammates, the risk for person-to-person spread of infectious droplets is elevated for this specific sport," the letter read.

The guidelines recommend allowing fall seasons for boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, and girls swimming.

Field hockey is considered in the same category as soccer, but the sport was not included in the recommendations because the CIAC did not ask about it, according to a DPH spokesperson.

The Department of Public Health recommended postponing the start of the season for those sports, including conditioning and practices, until at least two weeks after the start of in-person learning in schools.

"As schools begin welcoming students back into their buildings, communities will be able to assess the proper implementation of the mitigation strategies outlined in the State Department of Education’s re-opening guidance and put into place any necessary corrective actions," the letter read. "It makes sense from a public health perspective to allow this process to become well-established before introducing sports."

The CIAC first released a plan for fall sports seasons at the end of July. That plan included shortened seasons for all sports and set August 27 as a start date for practices.

At the time, Lungarini said the plan for the fall could change based on new information.

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