High school athletes in Connecticut who test positive for COVID-19 but are vaccinated and asymptomatic will be allowed to play.
Glenn Lungarini, executive director for the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletics Commission, told CT Insider that the decision was made because lessons have been learned and more data is available.
“One of the biggest differences between last year and this year is that we have a year’s worth of data that we can all draw from,” Lungarini told CT Insider. “When we were dealing with this last year, every aspect of COVID was new and unchartered. This year, not only are we able to take information and learn from what happened across the country with interscholastic athletics and getting kids back to in-person learning, but we were able to collect data and specifically look at CIAC sports and how our mitigation strategies at least were able to provide a safe environment.
“We all have a much better understanding of what’s effective and how to provide safe experiences for kids.”
Lungarini said that information from the Depart of Public Health is also more consistent and less likely to change. He said that as fall sports are slated to start Sept. 9, the medical world has learned a lot that will inform decisions made in the upcoming season.
“The biggest advancement is we have the vaccine,” Lungarini said. “At this time last year, we didn’t. So that continues to be this year the number one mitigating strategy to successfully engage kids in in-person instruction and keep them involved in extracurriculars.”
Lungarini also said that football was not found to be the super-spreader event that some believed it would be.
“With football, the contact periods are relatively brief during plays, and it’s outdoors which puts it at a lower risk compared to indoor sports,” David Banach, a UConn Health epidemiologist and head of infection prevention, told Hearst Connecticut Media. “It’s difficult to make any definite conclusions about that, but the fact that it’s outdoors and players have transient contact on the field makes it lower risk.”
CIAC has urged all high school athletes to get vaccinated.
“With a significant element of kids being able to get vaccinated, that keeps them in the game if they’re in close contact,” Lungarini said. “They don’t have to quarantine. We’re seeing a significant impact with less severe illness in people who contract COVID with the vaccine. That will help get kids in classrooms and back faster, so all those things put together give us cause to be confident in our abilities to provide safe, in-person learning and safe extracurricular activities for kids.”
Vaccinated athletes and high school staff who test positive will not be required to quarantine following a positive test as long as they are symptomatic and wear a mask until their test negative. Those who contract the virus but are unvaccinated will be forced to quarantine for minimum of 10 days or until they test negative.
CIAC is also recommending that the unvaccinated get tested at least once a week.
“It’s very different,” Lungarini said. “We just have a better understanding that this is a virus that likes to live. We’re going to see multiple variants — it’s not that there’s just one variant out there, there’s multiple variants — and we can expect that variants will continue to emerge as we deal with COVID.
“We never approached this as …. that we would come into this year and not be dealing with COVID. We always approached it from a standpoint of, we’re still going to be dealing with COVID, let’s learn as much as we can and figure out how to engage kids safely. Because, again, it’s not just about the health and safety perspective of COVID but it’s also about the social, emotional, mental health and physical health needs of our kids.”