Amid numerous letters and petitions from parents, student-athletes and many others throughout the state, there could be a little bit of a brighter light at the end of the tunnel for those hoping the State will “Let Them Play.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Delaware Gov. John Carney signed his 26th modification of the State of Emergency order he adopted back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The newest modifications include updated guidance from the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) on playing fall sports safely in Delaware.
In response to Carney’s modification announcement, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association offered its own press release later the same day stating, “The Order applies to all youth and adult amateur sports facilities, organizations and leagues. DIAA remains committed to protecting the physical well-being of all student athletes and ensuring fair competition among member schools.
“DIAA will conduct a survey of Superintendents and Heads of Schools to obtain DIAA member schools’ feedback regarding [Tuesday’s] Order. In addition, the DIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (DSMAC) will meet on 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 of Directors will consider the Order, the survey results, and any recommendations from DSMAC at its regular monthly meeting on Sept. 10, 2020, at 9 a.m.”
Carney’s and DPH’s 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.
“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 — which includes 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 DIAA has the final determination on whether school sports may resume in Delaware. Among the items that the DIAA has to consider from DPH regarding their fall sports guidance include:
• Athletes, coaches, staff and spectators considered at high risk for COVID-19 complications should continue to stay at home and are encouraged to obtain medical clearance for participation.
• For low- and medium risk activities, team groups should be limited to 15 players, plus staff. Team groups should be stable from day to day and mixing with other groups should be limited.
• Locker rooms should be avoided if at all possible. If used, time in the locker room should be limited to 10 minutes, using a staggered schedule, face coverings and social distancing.
• Water fountain use is discouraged, but if they are open, they must be cleaned and disinfected every 15 minutes to two hours.
• Discourage the shared use of materials. If sharing is unavoidable, materials must be cleaned between users or as often as possible (e.g., quarterly for basketball).
“DIAA member schools are required to continue to follow DIAA’s regulations, including Emergency Regulation 1010,” the response from DIAA said. “The DIAA Board of Directors will continue to receive petitions for reconsideration or revision of Emergency Regulation 1010, and will consider such petitions at its meeting on Sept. 10. Persons who wish to submit a petition may do so by mailing their petition to the DIAA Board of Directors, Delaware Department of Education, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover, DE 19904, or emailing their petition to DIAA@doe.k12.de.us.”
All youth and adult amateur sports facilities and organizations must review and follow the same DPH guidance as noted above. Every athletic facility and sports organization is responsible for enforcing these requirements.
“We value the important physical, social, and emotional role that recreational and league sports plays in both the lives of 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.”
The DIAA Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, Sept. 10, will be open to anyone interested in dialing into the meeting via conference call. More information on the details for calling in will be released prior to the meeting.