Meeting doesn't change state opinion on high school football

High school football players, coaches and fans gather at the Connecticut State Capitol during a rally trying to reinstate a football season on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Hartford, Conn.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An hourslong meeting Friday with the organization that oversees high school sports in Connecticut failed to convince the state's top public health official that a fall football season should go forward, she said.

Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting health commissioner, listened as the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference presented a plan to mitigate the threat of transmitting the coronavirus during football games, including requiring players to wear face shields below their helmets.

Following the meeting, which also included the governor's chief of staff, doctors and lawmakers, Gifford said not enough data exists to know if the the athletic conference's plan would be effective.

“I think the idea of pushing high-risk sports off until we have better data about whether these strategies will work is a good idea, and we would encourage the CIAC to continue to consider a later season for fall football,” she said.

High school football has been moved to the spring in nearby states, including New York, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island.

Gifford also noted that Connecticut has seen a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases recently, especially among ages 10 to 25. That has been tracked in large part to social gatherings, she said.

Gov. Ned Lamont called Friday's meeting after the athletic conference announced last week that it was reluctantly canceling the football season, saying it had become clear the state Department of Health would not give its blessing to what it considered a high-risk activity.

That led to protests, including one Wednesday that drew about 1,000 athletes, coaches and parents to the state Capitol.

They argue that Connecticut's COVID-19 metrics, which include one of the lowest infection rates in the nation, indicate that it is safe to hold football with safety protocols in place.

Lamont's chief of staff, Paul Mounds, said that there are no plans to issue an executive order banning fall football and that a decision on whether to hold a fall season will be left up to the athletic conference.

Glenn Lungarini, the conference's executive director, said it will wait for a detailed response to their proposal from Gifford's office before making that call. For now, he said, conditioning and practices will go forward.

“We have to use the information we have, whatever it is at that time, to make the most informed decision CIAC can to give kids that final direction,” he said. “We are intent on doing that.”

In other coronavirus news:

——— TRICK-OR-TREATING

Mounds also was asked whether the state has considered banning trick-or-treating this Halloween. There have been discussions but no decision, he said.

He noted that protocols for social distancing, avoiding crowds and wearing masks likely would still be in place on Oct. 31.

——— THE NUMBERS

The state reported 233 new COVID-19 cases Friday from 21,509 tests conducted, a positivity rate of over 1% for the third consecutive day. The state reported two additional deaths linked to the virus, bringing the total during the pandemic to 4,480.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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