Gov. Ned Lamont announced in a news conference Thursday that he was ordering all team and club sports — with the exception of college and professional teams — to pause practices and games until mid-January, starting on Monday.
The governor said that sports teams have led to surges of the virus spreading across the state, according to tracing efforts and cellular data analysis. There are currently 17 school closures due to positive COVID-19 cases on sports teams, 29 outbreaks of the virus that have been traced back to sports teams and a total of 235 teachers who have had to quarantine due to contact with a member of a sports team, he said.
Teams will not be allowed to meet after this weekend and events will be canceled until at least Jan. 19, Lamont said. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced Tuesday that it would be pausing all winter sports.
Lamont said that the restrictions are being targeted more directly toward a younger demographic.
Unlike college students and some professional athletes, children and teens always head home to their families after practice, increasing potential exposures and causing family members to quarantine, get tested and cancel plans ahead of the holiday week.
The new restrictions do not apply to members of college and professional sports teams, Lamont said, because athletes on those teams “can operate within a bubble.”
“They’re eating, they’re taking classes, they’re doing sports together, unlike high school, where you go back to school at the end of the day or the start of the next day,” he said. “It’s a very different infection ratio.”
The governor said the new restrictions apply to all recreational, school and club sports and are being implemented as part of an effort to keep schools open as long as possible.
Area schools, EB report new cases
Locally, as is true of many areas of the country, COVID-19 cases have been on a steep rise recently.
New London County passed the 5,000th case mark on Thursday, when the governor’s office reported that 135 additional confirmed cases were reported in the county since Wednesday, for a total of 5,101 cases since March. Probable cases increased by nine in that 24-hour period for a total of 155 on Thursday. Confirmed related deaths remained the same at 120, but probable associated deaths rose by five to 42.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the county increased by two, to 44. Lawrence + Memorial said it had 24 COVID-19 patients Thursday, and Westerly Hospital had nine.
Electric Boat has had 32 new cases since Tuesday, for a total of 440 since the start of the pandemic. That includes confirmed cases among the company’s employees working in Connecticut and other locations.
Waterford Public Schools was notified Wednesday that a person connected with Clark Lane Middle School tested positive for COVID-19, Superintendent Thomas W. Giard III said in an email Thursday to parents, guardians and staff. The school remains open and running on the usual hybrid schedule with the exception of the Sea Stars Team, which will remain in distance learning through Nov. 30 and return to the regular hybrid schedule on Dec. 1. According to the school district website, Sea Stars is one of three teams into which eighth-graders are placed.
The infected individual was last in the building on Monday. Contact tracing has been completed, and any child on the Sea Stars team who was not contacted is not considered a close contact and doesn’t have to quarantine, Giard said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a «close contact» as someone who has spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of an infected person, or was directly exposed through droplets, such as from a sneeze or cough.
East Lyme Public Schools was notified Thursday that two additional members of the Niantic Center School community tested positive for the coronavirus, Superintendent Jeffrey Newton informed staff, parents and guardians. He didn’t specify whether the community members were students, teachers or staff but said they were last in the school on Nov. 10. He said they have been told to remain home in self-isolation and have been provided with instructions to follow before returning.
Contact tracing was completed and school will remain open for all staff and students Friday, he said.
In Groton, district Superintendent Michael Graner notified parents, guardians and staff by email on Thursday that a member of the Claude Chester Elementary School community tested positive for COVID-19. He also didn’t specify whether the person was a student, teacher or staff member, and he didn’t indicate that this would have an impact on school operations.
Day Staff Writers Julia Bergman, Brian Hallenbeck and Erica Moser contributed to this report.