Gov. John Carney has signed the 26th modification to his state-of-emergency order, releasing updated guidance from the Delaware Division of Public Health on playing fall sports safely in Delaware.
The new guidance categorizes sports by risk – high risk, medium risk and low risk – and requires sports organizers to follow guidance around masks, social distancing and other preventive measures to keep players, families and coaches safe.
In August, Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association recommended that fall sports be sandwiched between winter and spring sports, and that was approved by the Delaware Department of Education. Following Carney’s Sept. 1 announcement, DIAA says it will reconsider fall sports at its Thursday, Sept. 10 meeting.
“DIAA will conduct a survey of superintendents and heads of schools to obtain DIAA member schools' feedback regarding today's order,” the DIAA said in a statement. “DIAA remains committed to protecting the physical well-being of all student athletes and ensuring fair competition among member schools.”
The DIAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee will meet Tuesday, Sept. 8, to consider the order and provide any additional recommendations to the DIAA board of directors regarding middle and high school interscholastic athletics.
The DIAA board will continue to accept petitions for reconsideration or revision of the state’s emergency regulation to delay fall sports and will consider such petitions at its Sept. 10 meeting.
Under the governor’s order, no modifications are needed for low-risk activities if social distancing and other general guidance can be followed.
Low-risk sports include singles tennis, golf, running, swimming, sailing, biking, surfing, horseback riding, hunting and fishing.
For medium-risk activities, staggered starts must be used for sports like running that typically involve group starts. Activities must be conducted outside unless approved by DPH. Shared equipment must be disinfected between users. Shorter practice times or smaller groups shall be used to reduce contact time among participants. The following rule and play modifications are required if face coverings are not worn at all times: Deliberate, direct physical contact, including body checking, tackling, blocking, pack running/riding must be eliminated. Rule changes must be in place to prevent close proximity or contact by replacing face-offs, restarts, etc., with alternatives that allow for social distancing.
Medium-risk sports include baseball, softball, field hockey, girls’ lacrosse, soccer, flag football, team running, track and field, team swimming, crew, volleyball, dance class, fencing and gymnastics.
For high-risk activities, athletes must comply with the face covering requirements, unless a rule or face coverings modification is approved by DPH. High-risk activities may combine requests for rule modifications and face covering modifications with a cohort model. If a cohort model is used, each cohort must be limited to no more than 15 athletes, and the cohort should be maintained as a stable group with no mixing with other cohorts. Equipment should not be shared between cohorts. If sharing is unavoidable, the equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between cohorts. Shorter practice times or smaller groups should be used to reduce contact time among participants.
High-risk sports include ice hockey, basketball, tackle football, boys’ lacrosse, wrestling, boxing, rugby, competitive cheer, martial arts, ultimate frisbee and pair figure skating.
For sports where the risk category has not been identified, sports organizers must confirm the risk category with DPH prior to initiation of practices or competitions.
“We want Delaware’s children to be active, to get outside this fall. But coaches, sports organizers and parents need to make sure they’re following all necessary precautions to keep children and families safe from COVID-19,” said Carney. “This virus is still active in our communities. Wear a mask. Physically distance from others. Don’t gather in large groups. We’re beating this virus, but we all need to stay vigilant.”
Anyone playing a high-risk sport, including football and wrestling, must wear a face mask at all times, or an organization or league must present a plan to DPH to modify the sport to limit contact, according to the guidance. The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association has final determination about whether school sports may resume in Delaware.
All coaches, staff and referees must wear masks. Spectators must wear masks unless socially distant from others outside their own household.
All youth and adult amateur sports facilities and organizations must review and follow the DPH guidance. Every athletic facility and sports organization is responsible for enforcing these requirements.
Fines or closure may be imposed on facilities and organizations that do not follow DPH guidance for playing fall sports safely. Failure to comply with plans submitted to and approved by DPH will result in revocation of plan approval and further enforcement.
“We value the important physical, social and emotional roles that recreational and league sports play in the lives of both youth and adults,” said DPH Health Systems Protection Chief Jamie Mack. “Our focus is making sure that it can be done safely for not only players, but also coaches, officials, spectators, and others involved. We will continue to concentrate on face covering and social distancing requirements as critically important strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during practice and play.”