The CIAC Board of Control approved a list of mitigation protocols for each winter sport Thursday morning in order to proceed with having a winter season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The season is still scheduled to begin preseason practice on Jan. 19, pending further guidance from both Gov. Ned Lamont’s office and the state Department of Public Health.
A CIAC press release indicated that the protocols would be “shared with our member schools in the coming days.” CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini said Thursday that before releasing the protocols to the state athletic directors, he wanted to see “how that aligns with DPH guidance to see if we need to add to it.”
Lamont said in his Thursday press conference that Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, is meeting with the CIAC “as early as tomorrow (Friday) and start focusing on the Jan. 19 date which is the date we gave at least to start being able to practice and condition and make some decisions soon thereafter.”
The CIAC winter sports are as follows: boys and girls basketball, boys ice hockey, wrestling, boys and girls indoor track and field, gymnastics and boys swimming. Girls ice hockey is not affiliated with the CIAC.
“It’s a very low percentage of people (getting COVID-19) related to activities on the playing field, basketball, hockey, whatever that might be. Probably some more infections related to in and around we can mitigate that if we are very cautious going forward,” Lamont said.
Lungarini met virtually with Gifford on Monday morning for approximately 30 minutes to provide updates on where things stood at that point as far as the COVID climate. Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, reiterated that fact in Thursday’s press conference.
“We will expect providing more clarity and guidance well before the Jan. 19 deadline. We will also be providing more information as a follow-up meeting to the one she already had,” Mounds said. “The team has been working very hard on this.”
Lamont held firm on the Jan. 19 date when he was asked about any youth teams being able to play or practice ice hockey before then.
Lungarini said he was hoping for more guidance from the state DPH or Gov. Lamont’s office this week or early next week in order to proceed with a decision. The DPH has yet to update its most recent guidance on its website.
“We had a great meeting on Monday. We were able to share information (with the Board of Control) we learned from them and we were able to provide some information as well,” Lungarini said. “We are waiting for the updated guidance. We know they are working on it.”
On Nov. 5, Lamont announced the end of competition in higher-risk sports until Jan. 1. Athletes playing sports in the moderate-risk category — like basketball and hockey — would have to wear masks until the conclusion of 2020.
In the CIAC’s proposed winter sports plan obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media in November, masks were to be a part of the moderate-risk sports. But no protocols were finalized once the CIAC Board of Control decided on Nov. 17 to push the start of preseason practice to Jan. 19, two weeks after schools were expected to return to class remotely and a possible date for a return to classrooms.
In addition to weekly conversations with executive directors from the surrounding states every Monday, Lungarini did spend some time over the break conferring with member schools not just about athletics, but also about the timetable for some school systems to return to a hybrid learning model. The Board of Control discussed it further on Thursday.
On Nov. 19, Gov. Lamont announced a sweeping two-month shutdown for non-intercollegiate amateur team sports – two days after the CIAC pushed back the start of the winter season to the same date. Among the activities prohibited until Jan. 19 were competition and practice in sports classified as higher-risk for transmitting droplets (like wrestling, competitive cheerleading and dance in the winter); interstate travel for competition, camps, clinics and tournaments; and all practice and competition in team sports involving more than four players.
The Board of Control has its regularly-scheduled monthly meeting next Thursday, Jan. 14.