MDH Issues New Guidance for Youth Sports, Urges Use of Face Coverings
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued new guidance Friday for youth sports, which during the COVID-19 have largely been reduced to informal practices of limited numbers without official games or scrimmages. The guidance recommends that youth sports games and scrimmages resume June 24 or later for outdoor sports, and July 1 or later for indoor sports.
According to MDH officials, the new guidance seeks to balance the goals of minimizing disease transmission and allowing young people to engage in sports activities that have “important physical, emotional and social benefits.”
The guidance also outlines preferred timelines for games, and is described in detail on the MDH website. You can view the COVID-19 Sports Guidance for Youth and Adults document here.
The guidance conforms to that of many national sports organizations, which suggest returning to game play in a phased approach, MDH officials said. This may include spending time on individual development, then moving to intrasquad scrimmages, and finally moving to games between teams.
“It is important that we look for opportunities to allow children to engage in activities that promote health and well-being,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “While several key metrics show COVID-19 transmission is slowing, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Learning to live with COVID-19 means finding ways to balance risks and benefits, and that’s what we are seeking to do with this guidance.”
MDH Urges Face Coverings for Coaches, Players
MDH officials say the new guidance asks coaches, staff and spectators to practice social distancing and to wear a face covering at all times. Players are asked to wear a face covering when possible. All adults and children involved in the activities should wash or sanitize hands often, and keep hands away from their faces.
Additional precautions in the new guidance include:
- Avoid sharing individual water bottles, community snacks or towels.
- Encourage use of dedicated personal equipment such as bats, mitts, rackets, etc.
- Find new ways to show sportsmanship – tip your hats instead of handshakes.
- Ensure policies are considerate of staff, volunteers and participants at highest risk of complications from COVID-19.
- Adhere to social distancing recommendations when participants are not playing (on the bench, in the dugout, etc.).
- Practice social distancing of 6 feet from other households during player drop off/pick up.
- Friends and family should not attend practices to avoid crowding.
- Maintain health checks and screening of participants and staff/volunteers.
- Organizations should require participants and family members to stay home when sick.
Organizations are required to have a COVID-19 preparedness plan that integrates MDH guidance as well as current social distancing and social gathering requirements.
“This guidance can help organizations and teams reduce risk, but in the end everyone has to make their own decisions about what level of risk they are willing to accept,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “Some families, especially those with members who face an elevated risk of severe illness, may choose not to participate. That is perfectly OK, and everyone needs to respect that decision when a family or a player makes it.”
The state guidance was developed in collaboration with stakeholders including the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission and the Higher Education Athletic Task Force. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Education is partnering with the Minnesota State High School League to develop activities and sports guidance for schools following MDH recommendations. Fall guidance will be available soon, officials said.
Today’s youth sports guidance comes as the number of COVID-19 cases rose by 362 and the number of deaths by 17. The state has averaged about 319 new cases per day over the past week. That’s much lower than seven-day averages in late May, which often exceeded 700 cases.
Malcolm has said that the ability to turn up the dial depends on the ability of Minnesotans to continue everyday steps to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing and wearing masks in public settings when in close proximity to others. Other important steps include getting tested if you have symptoms and staying home when sick.