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Sports Officials Present Football COVID Safety Strategies To State

CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini is surrounded by students during an interview as hundreds of high school student-athletes, parents and coaches protested outside the offices of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public/NENC
In this file photo from March 2020, CIAC Director Glenn Lungarini is surrounded by students during an interview as hundreds of high school student-athletes, parents and coaches protest the cancellation of the spring season.

Though the state Department of Public Health has not reversed its decision that effectively banned high school football this fall, CIAC director Glenn Lungarini said he was pleased with how Friday’s three-hour discussion with officials went. 

“At this time, we have presented additional mitigating strategies and new things that the department is going to consider,” said Lungarini. “When we get the feedback from them, it will give the CIAC more information in terms of recommendations to consider with the decision whether or not we can move forward with football.”

One week ago, the CIAC decided to cancel the high school football season after the DPH said it could not recommend that it was safe to play full-contact 11-on-11 ball amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ultimately, the decision rests with the CIAC. Lungarini said CIAC officials went to the Capitol Friday morning to present more safety options to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including face masks under helmets, gloves and more spacing on the field and sidelines.

“I don’t know that there is anything you can do to change a high-risk collision sport from being a high-risk collision sport, but I do think we can produce strategies that reduce that risk and inform people,” said Lungarini.

But Paul Mounds, the state’s chief operating officer, said the state still can’t give the go-ahead for football this fall because it’s not clear whether the mitigation strategies would be effective.

“It would be hard for the Department of Public Health, looking out for all the health of individuals all over Connecticut, to provide a broad recommendation that a high-risk sport like football could become a lower-risk sport with the recommendations provided,” said Mounds.

State health officials said they will consider the many options the CIAC brought to the table, though acting DPH Commissioner Deidre Gifford said it will take time to determine whether those strategies would work.

“CIAC acknowledged these strategies are not proven,” said Gifford. “They require some alterations to the helmet, and we just don’t know if they will reduce transmission by a little, a lot or not at all.”

Meanwhile, Lungarini said time is running out for a fall football season. He said the CIAC doesn’t endorse the DPH’s suggestion to move the football season to spring because officials don’t know what state health metrics will show then. He noted that a lot of football players also play a different spring sport.

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