HARTFORD - Connecticut's Public Health commissioner recommended Thursday that high school officials move their football and volleyball seasons from the fall to the spring to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The advice came a day after the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school athletics, voted to go ahead with a fall season for those and other sports that are scheduled to begin in September.
“Full-contact football is unique among the fall interscholastic sports in our state in its level of risk to student-athletes for the person-to person spread of infectious respiratory droplets,” Acting Commissioner Deirdre Gifford wrote in a letter to the CIAC.
Gifford also recommended that in-person academic activities begin before students take part in athletics. Football practice is set to start next week.
CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini, who requested Gifford's opinion, said Wednesday that the decision to go forward with a fall season was “fluid” and his group would give any recommendation from the Health Department “strong consideration.”
Messages seeking further comment were not immediately returned Thursday.
But two legislative leaders issued statements Thursday backing the decision to go forward with fall sports.
Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat who is also Berlin High’s head football coach, said he believes with strict safety protocols, “Connecticut is a place where this can work safely if we all follow the guidelines.”
Vincent Candelora, the Republican's deputy House minority leader, who owns a multi-sports complex in North Branford, said fall sports is "a door we should not close on these students.”
In other COVID-19 related news:
NURSING HOME STUDY
Connecticut nursing homes were overwhelmed by the coronavirus because of a lack of testing of residents with no symptoms of COVID-19, a shortage of personal protective equipment and other factors, according to a professor at the Yale School of Public Health.
Sunil Parikh, an associate professor at the school, was the lead author of a study of nursing homes in the state that was published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The federal Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and the state Public Health Department also contributed.
The study found that 601 nursing home residents out of 2,117 tested at 33 nursing homes were infected with the virus, representing a 28% positive test rate. Of the 601 residents, 90% did not show any symptoms at the time of the testing. Only a small percentage of the residents later developed symptoms.
The deaths of nearly 2,850 nursing home residents in the state have been deemed as related to COVID-19, representing more than 60% of the total coronavirus-related deaths in Connecticut.
The first nursing home resident tested positive on March 15, and at the time federal guidelines did not recommend testing people without symptoms because there weren’t enough tests available.