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State Updates Guidelines for Youth Sports
10:08AM / Saturday, July 25, 2020
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BOSTON, Mass. -- Football remains a “higher risk” sport that is restricted to non-contact drills and “individual skill work” under the latest guidance from the commonwealth released on Friday.
 
The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Friday released its updated rules for amateur sports activities.
 
The rules released on Friday specifically do not govern interscholastic athletics, but the same office will be determining the “rules for the road” for high school sports in conjunction with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
 
Those interscholastic guidelines are expected to be released in early August, Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley told the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association on Tuesday.
 
For now, youth and adult amateur sports activities remain grouped in three categories based on their potential for transmission of COVID-19.
 
The higher risk group includes activities with “close, sustained contact between participants.” Joining football in that group are sports like wrestling, rugby, lacrosse, ice hockey, competitive cheerleading, martial arts and ultimate frisbee.
 
As such, those high-risk sports are restricted to very limited activities at this time: “individual or socially distanced group activities (no-contact workouts, aerobic conditioning, individual skill work, and drills).
 
More activities are allowed for sports in the “moderate risk” and “low risk” categories.
 
Low risk sports, like golf, cross country running, golf and individual rowing, can essentially proceed as normal, although their games and tournaments will have a different feel than in years past.
 
While outdoor competitions and tournaments are allowed, no more than 25 competitors will be allowed on a playing surface at a time -- eliminating large, mass start road races and cross country races, for example. And no more than 100 people, including participants, officials, coaches and spectators, are allowed to congregate “in, on or surrounding any surface/playing area or start/finish lines at any one time, provided there is adequate space for all participants, players, coaches, volunteers and spectators to maintain at least 6 feet social distancing.”
 
Indoor competitions for low risk sports like gymnastics are allowed, but spectators are only allowed in facilities that allow for social distancing. Facilities cannot exceed 40 percent maximum capacity, and only one spectator is allowed per competitor under 18; no spectators are allowed to watch competitions involving competitors over 18.
 
Tournaments are not allowed, but games, matches and meets are permissible for sports that fall in the “moderate risk” category.
 
Sports in that group include baseball, softball, track and field, volleyball, no-contact lacrosse and soccer.
 
The moderate-risk sports are characterized by “intermittent contact but with protective equipment or mitigating measures in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants.”
 
As with activities at every level and every category, practices and games in the moderate-risk group must abide by social-distancing guidelines. That means 6-foot distancing for spectators, 40 percent capacity limits for indoor facilities, a 25-player limit on a playing surface at one time and face coverings for “visitors, spectators, volunteers and facility staff” while indoors. Spectators at outdoor events “should be encouraged to wear masks,” according to the EEA guidelines.
 
The nine-page document released on Friday includes extensive information about cleaning protocols including links to EPA sites with lists of acceptable disinfectants.
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