Rise in coronavirus infections may impact winter sports plan

The organization that oversees high school sports in Connecticut says it may need to wait until mid-November before deciding whether or how to move forward with a winter sports season as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to rise.

Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday the rate of people found with the coronavirus had increased to 4.1% of those getting tested, the highest level in the state since early June.

“That’s not unexpected, but it still wakes you up like a cold shower," he said.

Glenn Lungarini, the executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, said Tuesday that his organization had hoped to release a full plan for winter sports on Nov. 10, but may need to push that back to the following week given the uncertainty with the pandemic.

He said they're reviewing information with the sports medicine committee and waiting on updates from the state's health department.

Lungarini said they also are working through some potential road blocks for several sports, including a shortage of venues. Colleges and universities have told the CIAC they will not be opening their facilities to high school athletes for indoor track meets and other events, he said.

In addition, he said school administrators have expressed concern over playing hockey, especially because the state has more than 20 co-op teams, which require athletes from several different schools and towns to practice and play together.

Massachusetts officials announced last week they were closing all ice rinks after clusters of cases were traced back to hockey practices. Lamont said that is a concern in Connecticut, where at least one rink has decided to close after an outbreak.

“There are some incidents in and around sports, including hockey. There’s no question about it,” he said. “Most of it is not necessarily related to checking and skating on the ice, most of it is related to all that happens before the game and after the game, especially when it comes to tournaments.”

Lungarini said the CIAC also is looking at expanding the idea of virtual meets for some winter sports such as swimming and gymnastics, where schools could compete while performing at separate facilities.

“That's a possibility to allow sports to continue, but to significantly limit the interaction as a mitigating strategy for the spread of COVID,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report.