DANBURY — Fall high school sports will be put on hold for two weeks following the city’s recent spike in COVID cases, Danbury High School announced Monday.
Teams had planned on resuming conditioning on Tuesday before receiving word of the pause. The CIAC, with direction from the Connecticut Department of Health, announced Sunday it was authorizing the restart of conditioning after a 10-day hiatus.
“When we heard on Friday that there was a spike and that the city was closing down youth sports, my reaction was that this is going to be something for us to contend with. That held true today,” Danbury Athletic Director Chip Salvestrini said.
“We were told this morning that we are now being put on a two-week shutdown effective today. I am going to revisit it with the superintendent and health department at the end of next week to see if we can start up immediately on (Sept. 7), which is a holiday, but our goal is to get back in place and get going.”
Danbury High School fields teams in the Fall for boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, field hockey, football, girls swimming and girls volleyball.
The decision came on a day when Danbury announced it would go to a distance learning model to start the school year. Danbury had been planning to operate under the hybrid model, which would have offered a mix of in-person and distance learning. But the state issued a COVID-19 alert for the city Friday evening following a spike in cases.
From Aug. 2-20, Danbury reported at least 178 new coronavirus cases, according to the state Department of Public Health. Only 40 new cases were recorded in the previous two-week period, the state said.
While the hope is to return to practice on Labor Day, the halt could prove to be a large disadvantage for Danbury athletes.
“Now in Danbury we are in a situation that if we are going (to move forward with Fall sports in the state) then we are going to be a week behind,” Salvestrini said. “And it isn’t about Xs and Os and winning games, it is about getting our kids who have worked very hard to get to this point to have the opportunity to play just like their neighbors or any other kid across the state.”
For Salvestrini, having a plan for return in place is a priority.
“The decision makers are getting their information and the assumption is that is accurate and we have to do our share,” Salvestrini said. “I would like to be able to plan and have a program in place for our kids when the two weeks is up. I don’t want to be waiting around, I want to know. Our goal is certainly to attack and get the answers that we need to restart the program on the 7th.”
In the meantime, coaches will likely have to resort back to virtual coaching strategies.
“Once everybody gets over the shock today, tomorrow we will start getting people in tune with online virtual learning and virtual conditioning,” Salvestrini said. “I am an old-school guy, I’m not sure how you virtually learn to coach somebody but we are going to try to do that. At the same time, we are going to try to keep the coaches motivated and keep the kids involved.”
For the Danbury football program, keeping student athletes engaged and focused through the disappointment is key.
“We’re going to handle it the same way we did last week,” Danbury football coach Augustine Tieri said. “We’ll continue to adapt. The main focus is to keep the kids engaged. Obviously they’re most affected by it, and believe me, it is affecting them.”
The team was scheduled to hold a conditioning session on Tuesday before the halt, but will have to wait at least another two weeks.
“You ask them to follow certain guidelines, jump through hoops, and they’ve done it masterfully. It’s tough,” Tieri said. “They’ve gone through protocols and done a great job handling that well. Unfortunately, the decision has been taken out of their hands.”