Shortened Connecticut high school sports season unveiled

The governing body of high school sports in Connecticut publicly released its plans for restarting interscholastic sports this fall, proposing a shortened season that officials said will be “fluid” based on changing COVID-19 health metrics.

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The plan from CAS-CIAC, the Connecticut Association of Schools and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, was crafted in consultation with state education officials, the Connecticut State Medical Society, various athletic and coaching organizations, school principals and others.

“Everyone involved in the development of the plan recognizes that it must remain fluid, and that it will be in a perpetual state of evaluation as COVID data and health metrics become available,” according to a statement posted on CAS-CIAC's website.

The start of the fall sports season will be Sept. 24, the first contest date. Before that, first practices will be held in cohorts of 15 student-athletes, beginning on Aug. 27 for cross country, field hockey, soccer, swimming and volleyball and on Aug. 17 for football. Full practices won’t begin before Sept. 11.

Several weeks of pre-conditioning before the first practices will also be allowed.

The maximum number of regular season games will be limited to 12 for cross country, field hockey, soccer, swimming and volleyball and six for football. All the games will be scheduled regionally to limit transportation and to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus across the state. There will be restrictions on spectators and specific rules for certain sports, such as volleyball teams not switching sides after each set and teams not meeting in locker rooms at halftime.

The organization is also working on a “tournament experience” during the final two weeks of the fall season.

“No team will be eliminated from competition during this experience to maximize the number of games each team will be able to play through the fall season,” according to the plan.

During Gov. Ned Lamont's coronavirus briefing with reporters on Thursday, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel from the University of Pennsylvania, an oncologist and former White House health advisor, said he didn't think high school football or “contact sports of any type” should be played this fall.

“I understand giving up something that is a crucial part of your life,” said Emanuel, who was a swimmer in school. “But we do need to be safe and put safety number one. And I think contact sports are not good idea.”

Emanuel said professional sports leagues are trying to quarantine teams in “bubbles” to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said that would not be practical for high school athletes, given transportation and other complications.

“I think for one year we're probably going to have to take a miss on it,” he said.

Lamont said Friday he hopes the local sports organizations “take to heart” Emanuel's warnings as they continue to plan for the resumption of fall sports.

In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:

___ BY THE NUMBERS

Connecticut on Friday neared 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic first hit the state. Lamont's administration announced there have been 49,810, an increase of 140 since Thursday. However, the rate of infection still remains about 1%, the governor said.

To date, there have been 4,432 COVID-associated deaths, an increase of one person since Thursday. The number of hospitalizations climbed by three, to a total of 69. Lamont said he is concerned about house parties and large gatherings, especially involving young people, urging them Friday to remain vigilant, social distance and wear masks.

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FOOD INSECURITY

Officials at Foodshare, a regional food bank in the Hartford, have seen an increase in the number of cars arriving at food pick-up locations, such as Rentschler Field in East Hartford, as the extra federal unemployment benefits expire.

The Hartford Courant reported Friday there were 1,000 cars that went through the line for donations on April 20, when Foodshare began its daily food distribution at the stadium. The numbers grew to about 1,500 and later leveled off at about 1,300 until a couple weeks ago. There were 1,858 cars in line on Wednesday and 1,730 on Thursday.

"There are a lot of people freaking out,” Foodshare Logistics Manager Dom Piccini told the Courant. That’s why the last two weeks have spiked. People see the writing on the wall.”