The Minnesota Department of Health has said that competitive youth sports can resume outdoors on Wednesday, June 24, with indoor sports resuming a week later on July 1.
The announcement was made Friday afternoon and comes as COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue to fall in Minnesota, even though other states that have opened up – albeit to a greater extent – have seen spikes in cases.
The new guidance, which applies to adult sports too, seeks to "balance the goals of minimizing disease transmission and allowing young people to engage in sports activities that have important physical, emotional and social benefits."
It means that games and scrimmages for all sports can start outdoors on June 24 or later, with indoor sports following a week later. Practices for both indoor and outdoor sports can start on June 24.
Here's how the health department suggests organizations roll it out:
- Starting on June 24, begin with inter-team scrimmages as part of practice
- Two weeks later, focus on playing teams in your local community, local club, or local organization.
- After another two weeks, consider expanding to teams beyond your local community, but consider COVID-19 case activity level and risk in those communities when making travel decisions.
"It is important that we look for opportunities to allow children to engage in activities that promote health and well-being,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said.
"While several key metrics show COVID-19 transmission is slowing, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. 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."
The Department of Health says the ability to open more activities across the state depends "in large part on the willingness and ability of Minnesotans to practice the important everyday steps that help slow the spread of COVID-19," such as practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public, getting tested when you have symptoms, and staying home when sick.
The MDH has issued further guidelines for safety during youth sports, which are:
- 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.
“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,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “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.”