The state Department of Public Health remained unmoved Monday by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s Friday pitch for getting DPH approval for a full-contact fall football season. The CIAC Board of Control will meet this week to determine what comes next.
DPH acting commissioner Deidre Gifford sent a Monday letter reaffirming what she said Friday at the state Capitol in Hartford, that the CIAC’s new strategies for mitigating the risk of transmission of COVID-19 weren’t proven enough to change football’s designation as a high-risk sport.
“The CIAC has received DPH’s review of the mitigating strategies presented at last Friday’s meeting,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said in a statement.
“The letter from DPH has been forwarded to the CIAC Board of Control voting members. The CIAC thanks DPH for its detailed response and guidance. The CIAC Board of Control will convene in the next few days and an update will (be) provided after that meeting.”
Gov. Ned Lamont said at his Monday press briefing that DPH strongly recommends looking at playing football in spring.
“That said, the final decision will be made by CIAC,” Lamont said.
“You may say what’s the difference. I think there could be a world of difference where it’s much safer,” getting through most of flu season and with the hope of better testing and treatment by the spring. “I think it’s reasonable to assume we’ll be in a much better position to prevent, stem and hold down COVID in February than we are in September.”
And so the saga continues, a path that briefly ended on Sept. 4, when the CIAC announced it wouldn’t hold 11-on-11 competition this fall. After players rallied to urge support for a season, including event at the Capitol on Wednesday that drew an estimated 1,200 people, Lamont called on DPH and the CIAC to meet Friday.
The CIAC could decide to play despite DPH recommendation against it, but then local health departments or school boards could also shut school’s teams down. Youth football has been allowed in the state since July 6 under state reopening guidelines.
Several schools and districts have flirted with pulling out of some or all fall sports, some getting guidance from local health boards. At least one, Region 14, canceled fall sports but reversed its decision, at least for practices.
It’s also conceivable some teams could play seasons of some sort without the CIAC with those reopening guidelines still in place, though doing so would require clearing a few logistical hurdles.
In Monday’s letter, Gifford urged the CIAC to work with the CIAC’s sports medicine committee and the National Federation of State High School Associations to gather more information and satisfy itself whether the strategies will actually bring down the risk of transmission, as well as whether masks will do the same for girls volleyball.
“Having more complete information, as well as affirmation from the CIAC Sports Medicine Committee and NFHS of their confidence in your proposed strategies, will likely be of great assistance to the CIAC Board of Control, individual school districts, and participant families in their decision-making process as to whether they feel that they can safely and responsibly engage in football and indoor volleyball activities this Fall,” Gifford wrote, “as well as other ‘higher risk’ or indoor ‘moderate risk’ sports going forward.”
Updated 6:15 p.m. with statement from CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini and more detail from the DPH letter.