CIAC UPDATE: Winter COVID guidance finalized; local districts given discretion on masks

CHESHIRE — A day after completing a successful fall season that saw relatively few team-wide disruptions from COVID-19, the CIAC released its formal guidance for the upcoming winter season.

By and large, it reiterates the plan the CIAC unofficially released a few weeks ago.

The season will start on time in all winter sports. It can include multi-team events and interstate competitions. There will be a full season and there will be state postseason championships.

There has been a slight toggle, though, on the subject of masks.

While the CIAC repeated that masks will not be required during winter competition for vaccinated athletes — they will be required in certain sports for the unvaccinated — the organization does want its member schools to continue, for the rest of the fall semester, employing the mask policies that were in place for the fall season.

The salient point there: Indoor fall athletes — namely, volleyball players — had to wear masks while playing, whether vaccinated or not.

Once students are dismissed for the Christmas break, the CIAC states in its winter plan, “schools may begin to utilize (at their discretion) the revised masking rules for the winter sports season.”

Those revised CIAC rules allow vaccinated athletes to compete without masks in all winter sports. Unvaccinated athletes will be required to wear them in basketball, hockey and indoor track races.

Masks won’t be required during competition in indoor track field events, wrestling, swimming and gymnastics regardless of vaccination status.

Masks are required for everyone in all indoor settings outside of actual competition, such as in locker rooms and on buses and on the bench.

All that said, local school districts still have the discretion to decide if their vaccinated athletes will participate in basketball, hockey, and track running events without a mask after the Christmas break.

Spectators policies will also be left up to individual schools, which has been the case since scholastic sports resumed in the fall of 2020.

The CIAC drew up its most recent plan in collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Connecticut State Medical Society Sports Medicine Committee. It matches DPH rules for youth sports.

The CIAC also continues to stress vaccinations as the best means of preventing COVID outbreaks and quarantines. 

As in the fall, coaches and athletes who are vaccinated do not need to quarantine if exposed to a COVID-19 case, as long as they remain asymptomatic.

Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated coaches and athletes who are a close contact of a known COVID-19 case will have to quarantine for at least 10 days (with a negative test on Day 8 or later) or a full 14 days without a test.

All coaches and athletes who experience COVID-19 symptoms after a close contact with a known case — regardless of vaccination status — will have to quarantine for 10 days (with a negative test on Day 8 or later) or 14 days without a test.

Weekly testing for athletes who are not yet fully vaccinated is recommended.

As in past seasons, the CIAC plan is subjet to change based on changes in COVID metrics.

The 2021-22 winter plan is a far cry from a year ago, when COVID was in its second surge and schools, along with sports, shut down until the middle of January.

A winter sports season was staged, but it was a month late in starting, it was abbreviated and there was no state postseason. Wrestling was cancelled all together and indoor track severely limited because multi-team events were not allowed.

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