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St. Louis area leaders defend decision to restrict youth sports

The groups clarified the risk of transmission from actually playing sports is low; it’s the activities surrounding the games that are the greatest threat
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Three major groups in the St. Louis area have come together with one message: limiting sports and canceling games among the area’s youngest athletes is the right thing to do.

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health, the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force and the City of St. Louis issued a joint statement on youth sports Thursday morning. They said there is widespread transmission of the coronavirus in the St. Louis area, especially among kids, which could impact school this fall.

“This unfortunately increases the risk of spread to everyone, particularly when people gather in groups,” the groups said in their statement. “Furthermore, children will further suffer as this increase in activity threatens the ability of children to return safely to school and to sports this fall.”

The groups clarified that the risk of transmission from actually playing sports is low, and that it’s the activities surrounding the games that pose the greatest threat to the general community.

“This includes teams, coaches and parents gathering before, during and after games and practices, carpooling and other activities associated with participating in sports teams, especially if proper mitigation practices are not in place,” the statement read.

“For these reasons, the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health and the City of St. Louis Department of Health all agree that for now, competitive activities like games and scrimmages should be paused.”

RELATED: COVID-19 cases for people 20 and younger grow in Missouri as school districts make plans for reopening in the fall

On Monday, St. Louis County rolled back its youth sports guidelines to Phase 1 due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Under Phase 1 of the county’s return-to-play plan, youth sports teams cannot conduct training sessions where athletes practice in groups larger than 10, including a coach. Teams cannot utilize equipment, and physical contact is prohibited.

READ MORE: St. Louis County releases specific guidelines for youth sports

The same day the restrictions went back into place, the St. Louis Sports COVID-19 Coalition held a virtual protest arguing there was no factual evidence presented to support the decision.

“Give us the data and we will support you all fully, if indeed you can produce it,” said POWERplex president Dan Buck. “If you cannot produce the athlete-to-athlete transmission, if you cannot produce the contact tracing back to specific clubs, or organizations, or kids, or families, then we demand that youth sports be reopened on Friday.”

RELATED: St. Louis Sports COVID-19 Coalition demands data on youth cases

You can read the full joint statement from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force and the City of St. Louis below.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Area is in the middle of a dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases and there is widespread transmission of the virus occurring in the community, particularly in the younger population. This unfortunately increases the risk of spread to everyone, particularly when people gather in groups. Furthermore, children will further suffer as this increase in activity threatens the ability of children to return safely to school and to sports this fall.

While the risk of transmission during competitive youth sports games is most likely low, all of the activities surrounding the games increase the likelihood of spreading the virus. This includes teams, coaches and parents gathering before, during and after games and practices, carpooling and other activities associated with participating in sports teams, especially if proper mitigation practices are not in place.

For these reasons, the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health and the City of St. Louis Department of Health all agree that for now, competitive activities like games and scrimmages should be paused.

Although there have been COVID-19 cases associated with sports participation, it is the significant amount of virus circulating within the community that is the primary reason for having to roll back youth sports activities because they can create conditions for continued spread. The same conditions exist for any activity where person-to-person interaction is high, where groups of people get together for proms, graduation ceremonies or in bars, or where mitigation practices are low.

We all agree that participation in sports benefits young people physically, mentally and emotionally. Unfortunately, because of the significant spread of the virus within the community, these actions, as well as others, are needed until our communities are safe again.

Regardless of these constraints, the new recommendations still allow for physical activity -- such as sports skills and conditioning, both of which will allow our athletes to continue to develop as young athletes -- but in a much more controlled environment. Both the Department of Public Health’s guidelines and the task force’s recommendations contain these measures.

Everyone in the community can help bring competitive youth sports back by consistently wearing masks in public, social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, emphasizing the importance of disclosing exposures with parents and athletes, avoiding congregating in crowds, including informal gatherings, and avoiding traveling with teams to other areas that aren’t practicing similar measures to control the virus. These measures will help decrease the virus in the community and allow all of us to get back to doing the things we love, such as youth sports.

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