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Despite Concerns, Connecticut High School Athletics Overseer Plans To Resume All Sports

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The organization that oversees high school athletics in Connecticut plans to move forward with a fall sports season, including football, despite the recommendation of state health officials.

The revised plan released Wednesday night by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, would allow full contact practices beginning Sept. 21 in all sports and games to begin on Oct. 1.

The CIAC said it decided to pick Sept. 21 as a start date because most schools will have been in session for at least two weeks and that will give the organization a better idea of how in-person learning is affecting the spread of the coronavirus and what that impact might be on extracurricular activities.

Executive director Glenn Lungarini said Thursday that the plan may change again, but with Connecticut COVID-19 infection rates among the lowest in the country, the organization believes it is appropriate to at least move toward a fall season.

"We believe our kids, our athletes and our schools deserve the value of time and deserve the opportunity to at least begin, under low-risk activities, and then asses as we move forward," he said. "We think it's safe. We think it's logical. We think it gives a progression. We think it addresses the social-emotional health needs of our kids as well as their desire to compete."

Football conditioning resumed Monday and non-contact drills will be allowed to start this Saturday.

The decision comes despite a recommendation from the state Department of Health not to play football or indoor volleyball this fall.

"We've been consistently recommending that the higher risk (football) and the moderate risk indoor sports (volleyball) be deferred," Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre Gifford, said Wednesday. "That was our recommendation in our first letter (to the CIAC). It's our recommendation in our second letter and it's likely to remain consistent."

The department issued its recommendations in response to an earlier CIAC plan, which called for full practices to begin Sept. 11, with games on Sept. 24.

The CIAC said its disagreement with the Health Department comes in part because youth sports leagues have been operating this summer with few issues.

Lungarini said with predictions of a resurgence of the virus over the winter, a decision to defer sports now, when the COVID-19 metrics are low, would likely mean that sports such as hockey and basketball also would not be played this school year.

"Before we make decisions that we know are going to have a negative impact on kids, let's move in the direction of trying to give them as much as we can, until the point that COVID tells us that we can't," he said.