By Kevin Roberts, Republican-American
All sides involved in a Sept. 11 meeting regarding high school football in the fall called it productive, but nothing has changed. There still will not be a season, at this point.
Officials from the CIAC, the governor’s office and the state Department of Public Health met at the state Capitol for nearly three hours. State legislators joined in via Zoom.
No decision will be made until the Board of Control can meet and review the feedback given to it by the DPH, CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said.
The CIAC made the decision to cancel the traditional 11-on-11 fall football season on Sept. 4 because of COVID-19 concerns, but Gov. Lamont asked the CIAC and DPH to meet again after players, coaches and parents staged a rally in Hartford on Sept. 9.
“At this time, we have presented additional mitigating strategies and new things that the (DPH) is going to consider,” Lungarini said in a question-and-answer session with the media following the meeting. “When we get the feedback from them, it will give the CIAC, again, more information in terms of recommendations for the decision that we have to make on whether or not we can move forward.”
Among the strategies presented by the CIAC are: cloth face masks under the lower part of the helmet; designated stations for players where they have their own water, sanitizer and equipment required for play; players can remove mouthguards and masks in their designated areas; a maximum of 10 coaches and 45 players on the sideline; everyone but the quarterback will be encouraged to wear receiver gloves that will be sprayed with disinfectant at the start of the first and third quarters.
“We do think we have a safe product to engage with. As we move forward, we want it to be as soon as possible,” Lungarini said.
Lungarini said the plan is for football players to continue practicing in small cohorts, with full team activities starting Sept. 21.
“We are starting to run out, (with) football, on the amount of time that is necessary for kids to be properly conditioned to be acclimated to heat and to the other elements of wearing pads and everything else,” Lungarini said.
Paul Mounds Jr., chief of staff Gov. Ned Lamont, agreed that time is running out.
“To be honest, we’re almost at the end of the rope. We’re almost at the end in terms of the decision they have to make,” he said.
Mounds ruled out that Lamont will use his emergency powers to prohibit high school football this fall.
“We’re always prepared to protect the safety of the people of Connecticut,” Mounds said. “I don’t think at this time we’re prepared to put an outright ban to high school football in the state of Connecticut, but I think at this time we would put forth a recommendation that football is a high-risk sport in the state of Connecticut.”
Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting commissioner of the DPH, said she appreciated the suggestions made by the CIAC, but added that both parties acknowledged that some of the strategies are unproven.
“There’s really not a lot known about whether those strategies would reduce the risks from high to moderate or low, and we continue to recommend that high-risk sports not play in the fall,” Gifford said.
State Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, R-Seymour, who attended the meeting via Zoom, said there’s no studies to prove the strategies work because the pandemic just started in March and there has not been enough time to conduct studies.
“It’s logical stuff, but no, there’s not studies on these things,” Klarides-Ditria said, referring to the mitigating strategies.
Klarides-Ditria didn’t see the DPH as being helpful during the process. She pointed out that the numbers have been steady in terms of sports being played during the summer.
“If they wanted a common ground, they would have sat down and said give us everything and we’ll go one by one,” Klarides-Ditria said.
Lungarini expects the CIAC to make the final decision, like it did in March when it shut down the winter state tournaments.
Asked when a decision needs to be made, Lungarini replied, “It would have been nice two weeks ago. It would have been nice for our kids, and that’s who we all feel for the most.”
For now, it’s just more hurry up and wait for the supporters of area high school football.