AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development has updated its guidance for community sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which will have an impact on the school sports scene in Maine.
Face coverings are required for all individuals at practices and competitions at all times, including players, coaches, staff, and officials while engaging in practice or competition.
For winter sports, skiing and individual swimming fall under the lower risk category, while basketball, team swimming, ice hockey and cheerleading fall under moderate risk. Wrestling is the lone winter sport flagged as a high risk sport.
Low risk sports are cleared to participate in Levels 1 through 5. Moderate risk sports may begin Monday, Dec. 7 at Level 1, elevating to Levels 2 and 3 on Dec. 14 and reaching Level 4 on Monday, Jan. 11. High risk sports, at this time, are only cleared for Levels 1 and 2.
Level 1: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with household members
Level 2: Team-based practice with physically distanced group activities
Level 3: Intrasquad competition involving one cohort of participants
Level 4: Competition between teams from the same geographic area (e.g. same county or adjacent county).
Level 5: Competition between teams from different geographic areas within Maine
Level 6: Competition between teams from different states
An exception to the level of play allowed is when a county is designated by the Maine Department of Education as being in a yellow category, at which time competition and practice “should be suspended,” according to guidelines.
The start dates of December 7 and January 11 allow for time to pass after holidays when people may be travelling or at gatherings that increase the risk of COVID-19 spread, according to the Maine Principals’ Association.
Start dates for Levels 5 and 6 of competition will be determined in January. The January 11 start date for Level 4 competition will also be reviewed in early January based upon the status of the public health situation at that time.
“We are pleased to have worked collaboratively with the various stakeholders to provide an opportunity for winter activities to take place in Maine,” said Mike Burnham, Executive Director of the Maine Principals’ Association. “We understand the importance that these activities are to the health and well-being of our students, their families, and their communities. The alignment with the Community Sport Guidelines gives all groups a chance to work together to provide programs that are meaningful for the young people in our state. These guidelines will also allow for the sport of volleyball to have an indoor season at some point this winter/spring.
“We are grateful to the MPA, the Maine School Superintendents Association, and the Maine School Boards Association for their continued collaboration,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “This schedule allows students, their families and school communities to plan for a winter sports season that prioritizes the health and safety of Maine students, school staff, and communities.”
“The MSBA Board of Directors supports the plan,” said MSBA Executive Director Steven Bailey. “We understand how important sports are not just to the players but to the school community. Face coverings are the new normal and the best strategy for allowing sports to continue and for keeping schools open, along with allowing no spectators within competitions. While disappointing to both fans and players, it is critical to the success of schools remaining the place where spread does not happen. We need for schools to remain the safe place so that we are able to remain in yellow, heading to green.”
“The MSSA Executive Committee supports the recommendations for moving forward with the winter sports schedule and appreciates the safety precautions of mandatory use of face coverings and that no spectators will be allowed for inside competition,” said Eileen King, Executive Director of the Maine School Superintendents Association. “We also thank the MPA for their strong language mandating the suspension of sports if a county is defined as yellow.”
The MPA continues to update its “School Sports Guidance: Return to Competition for Competitive Athletics and Activities in Maine” for winter sports and will be issuing requirements applicable to particular sports in the coming weeks.