By Chris Piccirillo/Zip06.com • 08/15/2021 02:18 p.m. EST
As a new school year draws closer, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) released its 2021 Fall Sports COVID-19 Guidance Plan last week. Released on Aug. 12, the CIAC’s plan stated that there will be mask mandates for indoor sports and difference guidelines regarding COVID exposure for the upcoming season, along with a recommendation that all high school athletes and coaches in the state should get vaccinated.
The 2021 fall season is scheduled to start on Thursday, Sept. 9. Conditioning practices for football and practices for boys’ golf began during the past week. Practices for soccer, volleyball, field hockey, swimming and diving, and cross country are slated to get underway on Thursday, Aug. 26.
This year’s fall campaign will feature full regular-season schedules for all sports with State Tournaments and State Championship meets to be held after the regular season. Last fall, the CIAC canceled the 11-on-11 full-contact football season. The other sports were permitted to play shortened regular seasons, although there were no state meets held.
With COVID cases on the rise in both the nation and the state, the CIAC is mandating that athletes who play girls’ volleyball, which is an indoor sport, will be required to wear masks while practicing, competing, and on the sidelines this fall—just like last year—regardless of their vaccination status. Athletes who participate in girls’ swimming and diving, which is also contested indoors, will have to wear masks for all activities around active practice and competition regardless of vaccination status, but will not have to do so while in the water or during any outdoor dry-land training.
Athletes who participate cross country, field hockey, golf, and soccer, which are all played outdoors, will not be required to wear masks while practicing or competing. However, the CIAC said that participants in those sports should still wear masks in the locker room and the weight room, in addition to any indoor practices and film sessions, in alignment with current executive orders pertaining to mask requirements in schools.
The CIAC’s plan also featured some changes to its protocols regarding COVID exposure. Fully vaccinated students and staff members who have had close contact with a positive COVID case will no longer have to quarantine provided that they remain asymptomatic and wear a mask until receiving a negative test within 3 to 5 days from the date of contact or wear a mask for 14 days without getting a test.
Unvaccinated asymptomatic athletes who have been in close contact with a positive COVID case must quarantine between 7 and 10 days with a negative test or for 14 days without a test.
Vaccinated and unvaccinated athletes who experience COVID-19 symptoms following close contact with a positive COVID case must also quarantine between 7 and 10 days with a negative test or for 14 days without a test.
In its plan, the CIAC recommends that all high school athletes and coaches should get vaccinated in advance of the fall sports season. The CIAC also recommends weekly COVID testing for any unvaccinated athletes and coaches.
The CIAC’s plan is aligned with the most recent guidance from the Connecticut State Department of Health (DPH) and was reviewed by members of the Connecticut State Medical Society’s Sports Medicine Committee. The CIAC said that the plan is fluid and will be in a perpetual state of evaluation as COVID health metrics and data in Connecticut are continually monitored.
Numerous teams around the state were forced to go into quarantine during the 2020 fall season and the 2021 winter season—both of which were abbreviated campaigns that featured no State Tournaments or State Championships. The 2021 spring season was played in full and culminated with the state meets, marking the first time that there had been state postseason play for high school sports in Connecticut since the 2020 winter tournaments were canceled as they were ongoing at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of weekly positive COVID cases in the state consistently went down throughout the spring, but has risen again during the past few weeks. From the week of June 14 to 18, there were 315 people in Connecticut who were diagnosed with COVID-19, resulting in the lowest weekly total in the state March 2020. After 356 people were diagnosed in the week from June 28 to July 2, the total has gone up each week since then. Most recently, from the week of Aug. 9 to 13, there were 3,760 people in the state diagnosed with COVID-19, resulting in the most positive cases since the week of April 26 to 30, when there were 4,467 people diagnosed.
As of press time, there were 361,836 people in Connecticut who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 8,307 fatalities. Connecticut is 33rd in the United States in the number of total cases and 23rd in the country in total deaths.