Meeting fails to change DPH opinion on high school football

  • High school football players, coaches and fans gather at the Connecticut State Capitol during a rally trying to reinstate a football season on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Hartford, Conn. (Aaron Flaum/Record-Journal via AP) Aaron Flaum

Associated Press
Published: 9/11/2020 2:55:15 PM
Modified: 9/11/2020 2:55:02 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s top public health official says an hourslong meeting Friday with the the organization overseeing high school sports in the state failed to convince her that a fall football season should go forward.

Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health, listened as the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference presented a detailed plan to mitigate the threat of transmitting the coronavirus during football games, including requiring players to wear face shields below their helmets.

Following the meeting, which also included the governor’s chief of staff, doctors and lawmakers, Gifford said not enough data exists to know if the CIAC’s plan would be effective.

“I think the idea of pushing high-risk sports off until we have better data about whether these strategies will work is a good idea and we would encourage the CIAC to continue to consider a later season for fall football,” she said.

High school football has been moved to the spring in nearby states, including New York, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island.

Gifford also noted that Connecticut has seen a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases recently, especially among young people between the ages of 10 and 25. She said that has been tracked in large part to social gatherings.

Gov. Ned Lamont called Friday’s meeting after the CIAC announced last week that it was reluctantly canceling the football season, saying it had become clear the state Department of Health would not give its blessing to what it considered a high-risk activity.

That led to protests, including one on Wednesday that drew about 1,000 athletes, coaches and parents to the state Captiol.

They argue that Connecticut’s COVID-19 metrics, which include one of the lowest infection rates in the nation, indicate that is safe to hold football with safety protocols in place.

Lamont’s chief of staff, Paul Mounds, said there are no plans to issue an executive order banning fall football and that a decision on whether to hold a fall season will be left up to the CIAC.

Glenn Lungarini, the CIAC’s executive director, said the organization will wait for a detailed response to their proposal from the Gifford’s office before making that call. He said for now, conditioning and practices will go forward.

“We have to use the information we have, whatever it is at that time, to make the most informed decision CIAC can to give kids that final direction,” he said. “We are intent on doing that.”

Mounds also was asked whether the state has considered banning trick-or-treating this Halloween. He said there have been discussions about that, but no decision. He noted that protocols for social distancing, avoiding crowds and wearing masks likely would still be in place on Oct. 31.


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