ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) — The Minnesota Department of Health issued new guidance on participation in youth sports during the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday.
The agency said youth sports games and scrimmages are allowed to resume beginning June 24 for outdoor sports, while indoor sports are allowed to begin July 1.
“It is important that we look for opportunities to allow children to engage in activities that promote health and well-being,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “While several key metrics show COVID-19 transmission is slowing, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Learning to live with COVID-19 means finding ways to balance risks and benefits, and that’s what we are seeking to do with this guidance.”
The new guidance aims to create a balance between the goals of minimizing disease transmission and allowing young people the opportunity to engage in sports activities that have important physical, emotional and social benefits.
Many national sports organizations are taking a similar phased approach to the MDH model, which includes spending time on individual development, followed by intrateam scrimmages and then moving to inter-team games.
Organizations wishing to return to play must have a COVID-19 preparedness plan and follow the same guidance being issued to stop the spread, which includes practicing social distancing, staying home if you feel ill, wash hands often and avoid touching your face.
The new guidance also asks coaches, staff and spectators to practice social distancing and to wear a face mask or covering at all times.
Additional precautions issued in the new guidance include:
- Avoid sharing individual water bottles, community snacks or towel;
- Encourage use of dedicated personal equipment such as bats, mitts, rackets, etc.;
- Find new ways to show sportsmanship – tip your hats instead of handshakes;
- Ensure policies are considerate of staff, volunteers and participants at highest risk of complications from COVID-19;
- Adhere to social distancing recommendations when participants are not playing (on the bench, in the dugout, etc.);
- Practice social distancing of 6 feet from other households during player drop off/pick up;
- Friends and family should not attend practices to avoid crowding;
- Maintain health checks and screening of participants and staff/volunteers; and
- Organizations should require participants and family members to stay home when sick.
“This guidance can help organizations and teams reduce risk, but in the end everyone has to make their own decisions about what level of risk they are willing to accept,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “Some families, especially those with members who face an elevated risk of severe illness, may choose not to participate. That is perfectly OK, and everyone needs to respect that decision when a family or a player makes it.”
For more information about the new guidance, visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s Community Settings: COVID-19 website.