ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has rolled out recommendations that allow for a youth sports reboot across the state beginning Wednesday.
MDH "strongly recommends" that outdoor youth sport events resume June 24 or later, and indoor no sooner than July 1. Organizations must follow public health guidance that the department has published online. MDH acknowledged in a news release that while the official recommendation is next week, youth sports can resume now, if they follow the proper guidance.
The move is an effort to balance COVID-19 health guidance with the understanding that such activities play a crucial role in the development of a young person's emotional, physical and mental well-being.
“It is important that we look for opportunities to allow children to engage in activities that promote health and well-being. While several key metrics show COVID-19 transmission is slowing, we are still in the middle of a pandemic," Minnesota Commisioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a press release Friday. "Learning to live with COVID-19 means finding ways to balance risks and benefits, and that’s what we are seeking to do with this guidance."
MDH says its guidance mirrors the same issued to national sports organizations, suggesting a phased re-entry to play. For example, focusing on "individual development" of players, followed by allowing scrimmages within the team, and then onto games between separate teams.
In response to a question in the FAQ about playing this weekend, MDH said, "Yes, however we strongly encourage youth sports to wait and follow the recommended timelines. The timelines were developed by our public health experts to protect the health of our children and our communities, and to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19. We strongly encourage everyone to follow the recommendations."
MDH stresses that the continued turning of the dial toward reopening parts of society is still reliant on the social responsibility of Minnesotans in maintaining proper COVID-19 safety measures.
This includes a recommendation for anyone engaged in youth sports activities to keep proper COVID-19 safety in mind - such wearing a mask, getting a COVID test when necessary, and maintaining proper social distancing.
MDH provided the following additional COVID-19 safety guidance as it pertains to youth sport activities:
- Avoid sharing individual water bottles, community snacks or towels.
- Encourage use of dedicated personal equipment such as bats, mitts, rackets, etc.
- Find new ways to show sportsmanship – tip your hats instead of handshakes.
- Ensure policies are considerate of staff, volunteers and participants at highest risk of complications from COVID-19.
- Adhere to social distancing recommendations when participants are not playing (on the bench, in the dugout, etc.).
- Practice social distancing of 6 feet from other households during player drop off/pick up.
- Friends and family should not attend practices to avoid crowding.
- Maintain health checks and screening of participants and staff/volunteers.
- Organizations should require participants and family members to stay home when sick.
Not everyone will want to return to life as usual as it pertains to youth sport activities during the pandemic. MDH says youth organizations and participants must be fully willing to provide space for these individuals to make safety decisions for themselves and their families as they see fit.
“This guidance can help organizations and teams reduce risk, but in the end everyone has to make their own decisions about what level of risk they are willing to accept,” Malcolm said in her statement. “Some families, especially those with members who face an elevated risk of severe illness, may choose not to participate. That is perfectly OK, and everyone needs to respect that decision when a family or a player makes it.”
More information can also be found on MDH's website.