Michigan high school student-athletes received the disappointing news Friday that certain winter sports would remain paused once the current restrictions are lifted Feb. 1.
Boys and girls basketball, wrestling, hockey and competitive cheer teams can continue to practice, but contact and competitions will be prohibited through at least Feb. 21.
The following statement was released to MLive courtesy of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in response to why those sports remain on pause:
“We are pleased to continue incrementally reopening the economy with the recent MDHHS order. Counties around the country have faced outbreaks of COVID-19 associated with sports teams. In Michigan, there were 42 outbreaks associated with athletics (K-12 schools, professional, collegiate, and commercial venues) in August and September of 2020 before restrictions on contact sports were implemented, and MDHHS and local health departments are still identifying outbreaks on teams that are currently playing. Outbreaks of this magnitude have the potential to affect not just a sports team, but the community in which the players and coaches reside as well.
“Sports that require frequent closeness between players make it more difficult to prevent disease transmission, compared to sports where players are not as close to each other. The risk of COVID-19 transmission is increased by the number of individuals a player physically interacts with, as well as the intensity and duration of that interaction. The arrival of the new B.22.214.171.124 variant also means even more caution must be taken so we avoid the rapid rise in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths that other countries that have seen this variant have experienced.
“Even with mitigation measures in place, such as wearing of masks, disease transmission cannot be completely prevented when players are in prolonged or intense contact. Contact sports include the following: football, basketball, rugby, field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, hockey, boxing, futsal and martial arts with opponents. These risks are even greater for indoor contact sports where there is not natural ventilation to mitigate the close proximity of participants.
“Teams that can implement robust public health measures may be able to decrease risk, but risk remains elevated. We will continue to carefully watch the data to assess what other activities can be permitted. We are also laser focused on achieving our goal of vaccinating at least 70% of Michiganders age 16 and up as quickly as possible so we can end this pandemic and get back to a sense of normalcy.”