ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Youth competitive activities should be put on hold, according to a joint statement from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-10 Task Force and the City of St. Louis.
Last week, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced that there were about 20 new COVID-19 cases among children ages 10-19 per day. The county executive called the rising cases among children a scary trend and the reason why he put restrictions back in place for youth sports.
Page's office said the announcement is only for youth summer leagues and does not involve any school sports. Plans for fall school sports are expected to be announced at a later date.
While announcing the increase in cases, Page said youth sport teams would only be able to practice and play against their own team, but in a joint statement Thursday, it was announced that competitive activities like scrimmages and games should also be paused.
"These restrictions should help lesson the spread of COVID-19 among young people and should give us the best chance of an in-classroom option this fall," Page previously said. "These restrictions will stay in place until it's safe to roll them back."
Page has cited a few examples of teenage athletes testing positive which results in their entire teams having to quarantine as they await for results. Many local high schools have began having team practices in the summer. Without naming the specific school, Page said one area high school has had to quarantine 15 student athletes as they await coronavirus testing results. Another high school basketball player tested positive and the rest of his team is awaiting their test results.
"I know that there are many families, many teams have worked very hard to follow the guidelines and all the recommended precautions and these changes will deeply affect them and for that I am truly sorry," said Page.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 700 children in St. Louis County have tested positive for COVID-19. That accounts for roughly 8% of positive tests in the county.
Page said the restrictions are being put back in place not because of the athletes but because youth sports are a place where people gather in larger groups to watch games.
“It’s disappointing, but I certainly understand the new guidelines to keep our community, our friends, and family safe," said Ted Calcaterra whose son plays on a local little league baseball team.
Calcaterra also coaches two little league baseball teams. He previously told News 4 he planned to work with the other coaches to come up with a plan moving forward.
“I think we just have to wait and see. If St. Louis County is shut down and we are just gonna have to follow the rules and wait and see until it’s safe to get back out there," said Calcaterra.
Page said he's putting these restrictions in place now so as not to threaten any potential plans for students returning to classrooms this fall.
The county executive also believes if people age 9 and older would follow mask mandates, restrictions can be lifted sooner rather than later.
"If we could get compliance with masks...that will help turn things around," Page said.
Read the statement released on July 23 from the St. Louis County Department of Pubic Health, the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-10 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.