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Kids in school might not be spreading COVID, but youth sports are a different story

Youth sports team participating in Lacrosse tournament
Photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC by 2.0)

By this point in the pandemic, it is common knowledge that COVID-19 is less common, and less dangerous, in kids. Schools across the country have managed to reopen with few issues, as protective measures like mask-wearing, physical distancing, and consistent hygiene are easily enforced. Youth sports have proven to be more of a challenge, however, sparking concern among officials about extracurricular activities spreading the COVID virus.

A spike in cases among youth has led health experts to examine an underlying cause. Across the nation, from Florida to California and Minnesota, youth sports are leading to a rise in COVID-19 cases among school-aged children. In Los Angeles County, five outbreaks have been traced back to youth sports like soccer, baseball, basketball, and dance. Los Angeles County’s Public Health Director, Barbara Ferrer, told Deadline that none of the cases cropped up due to participation in typical school activities. 

“We know that masking and distancing can be a challenge in some sports, and that socializing during these activities off school campus could also be a factor in virus transmission among these groups,” she said. “We’re looking hard at the current guidance for youth sports and may be making additional recommendations later this week to mitigate the increases we’re seeing in transmission among youth sport participants.”

The lack of ability to properly implement COVID-19 safety measures during youth sports is believed to be the primary factor behind the recent rise in cases. The spread of several highly transmissible variants is also likely a cause, as noted by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends that schools limit the number of participants in youth sports for the foreseeable future. It also lists a number of recommended measures for youth sport directors to take to better ensure the safety of participants. The list breaks down more than a dozen preventative measures, including consistent disinfecting, careful social distancing, and keeping kids in pre-formed groups.

Other recommendations include encouraging kids to play outdoors (rather than inside), discouraging them from sharing snacks or water bottles, and staying vigilant with mask-wearing and hand washing. 

Sources: CNN, Deadline, CDC


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