The state Department of Health’s has remained firm on its stances on both football and girls volleyball in responses provided Thursday to the CIAC’s questions regarding both football and girls volleyball.
In letters obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media, DPH acting commissioner Deidre S. Gifford provided responses to questions asked by CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini.
“We received DPH’s latest letter in response to specific questions asked by the CIAC on Aug. 28,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lugarini said. “The CIAC Board of Control is processing the information received and we will provide an update as soon as possible.”
In its letter, the DPH states: “With regard to CIAC’s consideration of additional mitigation strategies for indoor girls’ volleyball and football that may lower their risks for person-to-person respiratory droplet spread, DPH has suggested that CIAC consider modifications to higher risk activities, and we continue to encourage such modifications. Absent such modifications, DPH is unlikely to support higher risk activities for the Fall term.”
One question asked by Lungarini regarded whether DPH would support football moving to the low- to moderate-risk category after Sept. 21 “if supported by COVID metrics that would permit sports such as soccer and field hockey to proceed in that manner?”
Lungarini also asked if the DPH would be willing to look at the COVID metrics at that time and see how those metrics coincide with the return to in-school learning around Oct. 1, which is the scheduled start of the CIAC’s regular season.
At that point, Lungarini asked if football as currently constructed, in an 11 on 11 format, be held. The DPH has recommended only a 7 on 7 format be used for the fall season.
Lungarini also addressed if girls volleyball players wore masks for its indoor matches, would the DPH change its stance on volleyball from a moderate-risk indoor sport to a lower-risk sport.
CIAC also noted that attempting to move girls volleyball outdoors — per the DPH’s request — wouldn’t work due to safety concerns, inclement weather, a lack of available resources and players instead playing for their respective club team rather than the high school team.
The DPH also suggested that “CIAC consult with your sports medicine committee before implementing significant changes to how high school sports are played in our state so that any potential unintended consequences of those changes (including increased risk of injury) can be fully vetted prior to implementation.”
Lungarini also noted in his three-page letter in regards to the inconsistencies between interscholastic and non-interscholastic athletics, that school superintendents “will be inclined to follow any recommendation issued by DPH.” Therefore the CIAC stated, it “wishes to focus its continued collaboration with DPH only on interscholastic athletic opportunities.”
When further pressed for what or when an update would be forthcoming, Lungarini reiterated that he would “provide an update as soon as possible.” He had no further comment on the matter.
The CIAC and the state department of health have gone back and forth over both football and volleyball for the last few weeks. The DPH had moved very little off its stance to host either sport this fall.
That meant just 7 on 7 football and holding girls volleyball matches outdoors. But CIAC stayed the course, deciding last week to proceed with preseason training for 11 on 11 football and girls volleyball indoors. The start of practice last Saturday consisted on non-contact skillwork for all its fall sports and all in cohorts of no more than 10.
The cities of New Haven and Bridgeport had already decided to cancel football and girls volleyball in mid-August. Other districts would have had to make a determination if the CIAC and DPH could not come to an agreement on the two sports.
“We’re going to stand by and support any decision that a superintendent and school district may decide is in the best interest of their kids,” Lungarini said at last Thursday’s press conference.
Full contact practices for all sports were scheduled to begin on Sept. 21 – if the COVID metrics were still at a low rate – and the start of the regular season set to begin Oct. 1.
The CIAC football committee voted on Aug. 10 to move the season to the spring. Two days later, the CIAC announced it was proceeding with fall sports as planned.
The DPH provided its recommendation a day later to push both football and girls volleyball to the spring and pause all fall sports conditioning “until at least two weeks after the reopening of in-person instruction in schools.”
The CIAC did pause conditioning for all fall sports on Aug. 14 to review the DPH’s recommendations and have further discussions with DPH. The CIAC said conditoning could resume for all sports on Aug. 24 in cohorts of 10.