By Susan Canfora
As Phase II of reopening the state begins on Monday, June 15, playing some sports will be permitted again – as long as team members, coaches and spectators adhere to safety measures designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
That means wearing face coverings, keeping a safe distance from others, practicing proper hygiene, disinfecting equipment and having enough ventilation.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, during Gov. John Carney’s press briefing on Friday, June 12, said involvement in sports often breaks social distancing rules.
“Face coverings are among one of the most important actions that can be taken to keep the virus contained. Coaches must wear them at all times and players, staff, parents and spectators as well,” she said, although there could be exceptions when players’ movements are vigorous and they are breathing hard.
Distance must be kept by staggering arrivals and game times, having parents wait in the car during practices and alternating seating .
Players and coaches should not mix with other teams and full contact play must be limited to games only.
Spitting is discouraged, as are celebrations after wins.
Equipment should not be shared and must be cleaned between uses. And, Rattay said, playing outdoors is preferable to being inside.
Teams coming into Delaware must abide by Delaware rules.
Rattay specified the following requirements:
*Baseball and softball – Move the batter’s box up and be sure the catcher wears a mask.
*Soccer – No body checking and headers allowed.
*Lacrosse -- Coin toss instead of face-off or draw.
*Girls – Only two players contesting a ground ball.
*Basketball -- Outside only
*Field hockey – Social distancing during penalty corners.
*Volleyball – Limit number of players.
*Flag football – Limit number of players.
“None of us wants to change the game itself. I think there’s been a lot of careful thought about not changing the game but really approaching this in a way to help us decrease the infection.
“It’s temporary. We’re not going to be living in the midst of a pandemic forever. These are things that will help us play safely,” Rattay said.
She categorized sports into low, medium and high-risk groups.
Low-risk sports include tennis, with only two people a safe distance apart.
Medium-risk include volleyball, lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, outdoor basketball, baseball and softball, the latter two because the catcher is close to players.
High-risk sports include indoor basketball, hockey, football, wrestling and rugby.
“Those need a lot more thought before we can start allowing them again,” Rattay said.
Carney, at his final Friday news briefing concerning the coronavirus, said changes will prompt comments like, “What do you mean you can’t spit seeds? How is that baseball?”
“But this is the new normal and the new normal is just different.
“We’re not out of this yet. We still have to prevent the spread. The very worst possible thing would be the cost of human lives and sickness and loss of business and revenue with the shut downs and then to have a rebound because we’ve let our guard down and not been serious about the fact that COVID-19 is still among us,” Carney said.
“We want to make sports as real as possible with the goal of getting children more active, but to do it in a safe way. What I don’t what is to become one of these 12 states,” he said, holding up a list of states that have had resurgences in the number of coronavirus cases after reopening.
“I have heard the pain. It isn’t worth it just because we want to play softball the way we used to play it,” he said.
Replying to a question from Coastal Point, Rattay said water parks will not reopen during Phase II because there wouldn't be sufficient social distancing.
“It is very hard in water parks. You have lots of lines and people are touching a lot of things like railings when they are in line. That is one we expect to be talking about more in the upcoming days,” Rattay said.
As of Friday, there were 414 deaths from the coronavirus in Delaware and more than 10,000 cases statewide.
“In some states there has been an uptick now that they’re reopening and that is very troublesome. That should be one of our concerns. The message of it is, we can’t let our guard down. We can’t become complacent,” Carney said.
“This virus is not going away. Not every state was as aggressive as shutting down but many were. Nevertheless we are seeing upticks. The virus has the opportunity to spread,” he said.
Replying to a reporter’s question about Phase III, Carney said it will begin “after continued progress and staying the course.”
“We will continue to ramp up testing. It’s the contact tracing piece of it. That’s a new part of this effort and it’s the part we’re going to rely on to really control the spread,” he said.