To play or not to play: Future of HS football season still unclear after CIAC, DPH meet to discuss health risks

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) met Friday to discuss how to safely play football amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the meeting, Glenn Lungarini, Executive Director of the CIAC said his team presented solid options for the DPH to consider, with ways to mitigate the potential problems presented by playing a high-contact sport like football. One of those mitigating factors would be face shields, according to Lungarini.

“The face masks, the face shields, able to present that and talk to those strategies, trying to put a definitive number of how many people will be on the sideline, how many coaches, how many players,” he said.

Lungarini said designated locations for players to remove masks was another detail that was discussed as well.

Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre Gifford said that both DPH officials and CIAC officials in the meeting agreed that full-contact football is a high-risk activity. Commissioner Gifford also said she thinks pushing high-risk sports off until there is more data would be a “good idea.”

The idea of playing football in the spring was also discussed, according to Lungarini, in addition to ways to play this fall.

The Governor’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds made note of the fact that surrounding states — including Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York — have made that decision to push football back to the spring. Mounds pointed to his own high school and college football experience to show how much he understands how student-athletes feel about the decision to postpone football.

“It will be hard for the department of public health looking out for the health of individuals all over Connecticut to provide a broad recommendation that the high-risk sport of football will become a moderate-risk sport based upon the recommendations that are provided,” Mounds said.

Both Lungarini and Mounds made the logistics of playing football in the second half of the school year sound like it could be problematic, especially as it relates to coordinating around other scholastic sports.

Watch: Gov. Lamont’s Chief of Staff, Paul Mounds, Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre Gifford discuss meeting with CIAC

The health department said previously it isn’t safe to play given the current circumstances. Last week, the CIAC said there would be no fall football in order to be in alignment with the DPH guidelines. But students and parents pushed back, so officials now said they will try to put together a plan to play safely.

RELATED: Hundreds of athletes gather in Hartford, beg CIAC to ‘Let Us Play’ HS football

With the constant back and forth, players just want a solid answer.

“I just want a decision to be made whether we play now or we play in the spring,” said Shane Laport, Southington High School Senior.

DPH said it will still consider the safety proposals made by the CIAC, but ultimately, officials sounded unconvinced after the meeting.

DPH would only be giving a recommendation. The final decision still rests with the CIAC with or without state approval.

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