Sports

Guidelines allow most winter sports — except wrestling and indoor track

MONTPELIER — Provisions announced Tuesday allow for interscholastic high school sports this winter, with games in a limited schedule in most sports — including basketball, ice hockey, Nordic skiing, gymnastics, cheerleading and dance — beginning on Jan. 11 and practices starting on Nov. 30.
Wrestling and indoor track will not be allowed, and spectators — even family members — will not be permitted at indoor sporting events, according to a Nov. 3 joint statement from the Agencies of Education and Natural Resources.
Only players, coaches, officials, time and scorekeepers, and people providing live video streams will be allowed to attend games.
And if data indicate that COVID-19 infections are “resulting from interscholastic games, meets or competitions, additional restrictions may become necessary, including but not limited to the widespread cancelation of games, meets and competitions,” according to the statement.
Basketball and hockey programs will be allowed to hold practices, scrimmages and games, but must take steps to maintain six feet of distance “between players not actively involved in game play.”
All indoor sports teams in competitions “that involve close proximity or moderate contact,” such as hockey and basketball, can only play two games in any seven-day period and must take three days off between games. 
Wrestling will not be allowed because of its high-contact nature, and venues are not available for indoor track & field, which typically holds meets at the University of Vermont and Norwich.
Nordic skiing may hold team practice sessions and meets, with a limit of 150 participants at a given time. Staggered starts and departures are encouraged, and “Meet organizers must maintain lists of participants in each grouping for 30 days to assist in contact tracing.” Spectators at meets cannot exceed 150 at any given time. 
Dance and gymnastics teams may practice and hold competitions, with limits of one person per 100 square feet and no more than 75 people in any indoor space 17,100 square feet or smaller. Larger venues may have up to 150 people indoors. As is the case with outdoor events, staggered competitions are encouraged, and lists of competitors must be maintained.
Cheerleading squads may hold practice sessions and competitions. Individual stunt groups should remain together and stay six feet apart during routines. Vocal routines are not permitted.
Other provisions include: 
•  Health checks for players, coaches, officials, staff and spectators are required before arriving at school-sponsored practice sessions, scrimmages, games, meets or competitions.  
•  Two-week quarantines are mandated for any participants who travel out of state for any reason.  
•  Facial coverings are required for all “players, coaches, officials, staff and spectators at all times, including during active play,” with medical and other exceptions that would apply to Nordic skiers and gymnasts in certain circumstances. Officials must use electronic whistles when working indoors. 
•  “Team-based social gatherings are strongly discouraged until all other COVID-19-specific restrictions regulating school-based sports are fully lifted.”
•  Parents or caregivers are encouraged to bring athletes to away events to limit the number of students riding buses. Bus windows must remain open. 
•  “Athletes should arrive for practices, games, meets and competitions dressed to play to the maximum extent practicable in order to minimize or eliminate time spent in locker rooms,” and they should avoid “congregating before, during and after practice.”  
•  Practices should “prioritize non-contact activity, such as conditioning and drills where physical distance can be maintained.”
•  Outdoor training sessions should be used whenever possible for all sports. 
•  An infected athlete or official may not return “until asymptomatic for at least 14 days and cleared by their primary care physician.”  
•  “Unnecessary physical contact, such as high fives, handshakes, fist bumps or hugs” is discouraged. 
•  Equipment and other supplies touched by participants must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected regularly, and sharing of equipment should be limited. 
•  No spitting or sharing of water bottles is allowed. 
According to the statement, the guidelines will be reviewed on or about Jan. 1, and guidelines for spring sports programs will be published by March 1.
The full joint statement from the two agencies may be found online at tinyurl.com/y5j4ansf.

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