As it awaits a go-ahead to begin its winter season in two weeks, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference says it believes its strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 were effective in fall sports, though one in five teams in a few moderate-risk sports went through quarantines.
In a report to its Board of Control at Thursday’s meeting, released to the media in the afternoon, the CIAC said contract tracing by local departments of health “identified five cases in which a total of seven individual CIAC member school student-athletes contracted COVID-19 as a result of participation in a school sport event.”
Those cases came in a season in which 28,842 athletes took part in 8,296 games, and the CIAC estimates that practices brought total fall events over 33,000.
Data came from a survey of member schools in which, the report says, 133 of 186 schools responded. “An assumption is made that schools not responding to the survey did not have any data to report,” it says.
The report did not reveal which sports were responsible for those five cases.
“We were not able to identify the sport,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said. “That data gathering would potentially violate FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), so we didn’t ask.”
However, sports in which players tested positive, or in which teams or players had to quarantine because of possible exposure to the novel coronavirus, mirrored the levels used by the state Department of Public Health to classify those sports according to the risk of transmitting droplets.
Fall sports included low-risk cross country and girls swimming; moderate-risk field hockey, soccer and girls volleyball; and low-to-moderate risk, modified 7-on-7 football. The CIAC did not sanction 11-on-11 tackle football this fall after the state DPH did not recommend playing.
Even so, 7-on-7 football had the highest percentage of teams that had a player test positive for COVID-19, 14.69 percent. Boys soccer was next with 13.56 percent of teams, followed by girls soccer with 10.43.
The report stresses that “in the overwhelming majority of cases, contact tracing identified the source of transmission as outside of the sport event.”
That order flipped looking at teams where some or all players were required to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure: girls soccer and boys soccer were nearly identical, 22.09 and 22.03 percent, followed by 7-on-7 at 21.68.
Girls swimming was lowest on both charts, with 2.35 percent of teams having a positive test and 8.24 percent of teams forced to quarantine.
The CIAC announced on Nov. 17 that it would hold off on the start of winter practices until Jan. 19. Two days later, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a statewide shutdown of team sports until that same date.
At that time, Lamont said tracking blamed sports, though not necessarily CIAC sports, for 17 school closures, 29 outbreaks and 235 teacher quarantines.
The CIAC reported that 15.39 percent of games were rescheduled in the fall for all reasons, and 2.32 percent of scheduled games were canceled. It did not have data on how many were rescheduled or canceled for COVID-19 reasons.