Minnesota youth sports leaders are urging players and parents to take the new Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 restrictions announced by Governor Tim Walz on Wednesday. This is the only way, they say, to ensure the return of the sport after a planned hiatus of four weeks.
“In order for us to come back after four weeks, it has to be obvious that sporting families are embracing this decree and not trying to get around it,” said Minnesota Hockey executive director Glen Andresen.
High school and youth sports will be suspended at midnight on Friday, marking the premature end of the high school volleyball and football seasons. Winter sports, which were to start training on Monday, are suspended until at least December 18.
“We know this has been difficult and challenging and that a lot has been asked of you, and I have to ask for a little more,” Walz said in a televised address to the state Wednesday night.
Adult leagues also fall under the restrictions, but professional and college sports will continue without the presence of fans.
After keeping the infection rate relatively stable throughout the summer, Minnesota has seen a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals and decimate the pool of healthcare workers across the country. State.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, Minnesota’s infection rate was 5.7 per 10,000 people on June 18. On Wednesday it was 112.1. The infection rate on all tests is 15.3. Minnesota was also high in April, said state health commissioner Jan Malcolm, “but back then we were literally testing a tenth of the number of people we are testing now.”
Youth sports leaders had a teleconference with IT Services Commissioner Tarek Tomes, who served as the state-to-amateur sports liaison during the pandemic. Andresen called it “sobering”.
Dawson Blanck, director of Minnesota Youth Athletic Services, which runs leagues year round for more than 110,000 athletes aged 9 to 15, said his organization included the hiatus.
“I think most organizations get it,” he said, “and now it’s about making sure that everyone benefits. This is the big thing for us, this is a defining moment for us – as a state.
“If people do the right thing and do their part, there is a chance (there will be winter sports), but it all comes down to following the guidelines and doing the right thing for a while. that we’re taking a break. “
A group of parents and sports trainers called Let Them Play! started a petition on change.org asking the governor to reconsider his decision to suspend youth sports. Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., it had 9,000 signatures.
“At the heart of it all, we don’t think the data supports the decision,” Let Them Play said! board member Ryan Wilson. “If they want us to come, have a constructive meeting, show us the data, we’ll be happy to share it.
“We’re not here to spread COVID, we just think we should be making these decisions based on data and science, and right now there seems to be an information vacuum.”
Malcolm said the state’s latest data showed around 7,200 positive cases directly linked to athletic competitions. This does not include, she said, activities surrounding games such as practices and social events. By comparison, around 3,600 active cases, she said, have been found in bars and restaurants, which are also closed for a month.
The drop in those numbers will be a big factor in the break ending on December 18. She said four weeks is a good indicator as these are two typical incubation periods for the virus.
Asked about lawmakers who have criticized a slew of COVID restrictions as largely ineffective, Walz said, “There isn’t a single person in the medical community who agrees with their assessment, not a single one. … My job is to follow the science and follow the data.
Secondary school administrators were more supportive. While disappointed, those who spoke to Pioneer Press said they understood the governor’s decision.
“We want to keep playing. We think it benefits the kids and I think we are handling it quite well, ”said Rich Dippel, business manager of St. Croix Prep. “But I am also a realist, and when I am strictly a school administrator, I can see absolutely why we are.”
The Stillwater school volleyball team saw its season end in an outbreak this week, the school’s first closure of the season. The football team ended their season on purpose when key players were diagnosed.
“We have a hard time keeping teachers in buildings, like everyone else,” Dippel said. “We have exhibits and kids come out of the building, and some people aren’t helping the cause.”
Thursday’s matches will be the last of 2020 for volleyball teams, and many soccer teams that were scheduled to play sectional semi-finals canceled on Saturday are moving them to Friday to get them involved before the deadline.
“No one wants this to happen; it’s a very difficult decision to swallow, ”said Phil Kuemmel, Director of Activities at Park High School. “We want to have a winter season and we think we will; we just don’t know when it will start. These activities are important, but we need to keep our kids, our communities and our coaches safe, and for now, that will have to take priority over the games.
Andresen, whose organization is teaming up with USA Hockey to host tournaments for hockey teams in 143 Minnesota communities, also expressed disappointment, but said Minnesota Hockey is committed to getting the season back on track.
“If we want this (pause) to end,” he said, “we have to do the right things.”