• Estelle Monti

Health Officials Link COVID-19 Outbreaks to Youth Sports

Holton-Arms varsity cross country at a socially distanced practice (Photo courtesy of Irene Qi ’21)

With the beautiful spring weather, it feels time for outdoor spring sports. The CDC, however, links COVID-19 outbreaks to youth sports. In a White House briefing, CDC Director Dr. Walensky explains that many new infections in the club and school sports settings result from the contagious B.1.1.7 variant. She also emphasizes, though, that the recent outbreaks are “not necessarily indicative of school-based transmission.” One example of a sports-related outbreak comes from a wrestling tournament in Florida last year. According to the CDC study, the tournament resulted in at least 38 cases. Other outbreaks in Minnesota and Michigan are primarily linked to school and club sports. Since January, the B.1.1.7 variant ripped through Carver County, Minnesota to result in at least 68 cases primarily from hockey, wrestling, basketball, and alpine skiing. Health officials recommended a two-week pause in youth sports to control the outbreak, the state department reported.

Despite the clear link of COVID-19 transmission to youth sports, not every sport conveys the same risk. Sports that require frequent contact, take place inside, and are played without face coverings, are more likely to generate cases. Ice hockey, for example, has been particularly effective in spreading COVID-19, according to Ariana Eunjung Cha and Karin Brulliard of the Washington Post. Scientists suspect that since ice rinks are designed to restrict airflow, temperature, and humidity, they create the ideal conditions for the virus to flourish. The sport also requires close contact and fast, heavy breathing, which contribute to the spread.

The Holton administration and the athletics department have taken steps to keep sports as safe as possible. All students are screened with a wellness check before arriving at school, and during play, athletes are required to wear masks at all times and play with limited contact.