CIAC releases COVID guidance for winter sports


Nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic ended the high school basketball state tournaments, the CIAC is still figuring out how to let each season of sports continue.
On Nov. 29, the CIAC released its winter sports COVID-19 guidance, a now-regular part of preseason preparation no matter the time of year. The highlight of the plan is a relaxation of in-game mask mandates for basketball players starting around Christmas.
Until Dec. 23, which is the last scheduled school day of the fall for most Connecticut high schools, athletes and coaches must continue to wear masks at all times while inside a school building, including during practice and gameplay.
After schools break for the holidays, though, the CIAC will give each school district the option to allow vaccinated basketball players to play without masks during games. Unvaccinated players, as well as bench players and coaches, must continue to wear masks at all times. Everyone must continue to mask up during practice, no matter the student’s vaccination status.
“These recommendations are based on the known benefits of vaccination and the allowances that such benefits can afford fully vaccinated student-athletes when engaged in high intensity performance,” the CIAC noted in its written plan.
The organization added that it chose the winter break to try unmasking to prevent contact-tracing quarantine situations that would force students to miss in-class time. The CIAC implied that games over the holidays will essentially be a trial run.
“[The] CIAC will closely monitor the experience of schools with the implementation of more relaxed masking rules during interscholastic competitions taking place over the holiday recess and will determine prior to the start of the winter academic session … whether new masking protocols should continue or if reverting to previous protocols is warranted,” the plan read.
The same rules will apply to indoor track athletes and hockey players. The current protocols for wrestlers and swimmers will not change come the holidays — no matter their vaccination status, wrestlers don’t have to wear masks while in a match or grappling, and swimmers don’t have to mask up while in the water. Both groups of athletes must wear masks otherwise.
Vaccinated basketball and hockey officials will have the option of unmasking during play, too.
Spectator guidelines will be determined on a district level. Woodland and Naugatuck allowed unlimited fans at its fall indoor events but required masks. The CIAC said it will determine spectator policies for the state tournaments prior to the postseason.