Local athletes got the news they were looking for Monday when the Minnesota Department of Health cleared the way for winter sports contests to start on Jan. 14, with masks required in some sports.
COVID-19 safety protocols were also put in place for practices with more guidance coming regarding game play. Earlier this month, Gov. Tim Walz said youth sports could start practices on Jan. 4.
Sports practices will be limited to pod sizes of no more than 25 people and social distancing is required. Spectators will not be allowed.
Masks will be required at all times in practices and games, including basketball and hockey. They will not be required in wrestling, swimming and diving and cheerleading because the face coverings could become a choking hazard, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“The decision to resume sports does not mean engaging in sports is without risk. Any time you gather with other people, you are putting yourself and others at risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” the MDH guidance reads. “COVID-19 can lead to serious medical conditions and even death for people of all ages. We cannot predict who will become severely ill, although we know that older people and people with underlying health conditions are at higher risk. We do not yet know what the long-term effects of COVID-19 are; even people with mild cases may experience long-term complications. People with symptoms and without symptoms can spread COVID-19. The masking, distancing and other guidance provided here is intended to reduce the risk of transmission, but does not eliminate it.”
The Jan. 4 start date for practices and Jan. 14 start date for games allows for the Minnesota State High School League’s 10-day practice requirement.
At the same time, MDH is allowing a few exceptions to the mask requirement. The full guidance document can be found on the MDH website.
Virginia head girls’ basketball coach Spencer Aune heard the news Monday and was just happy his team would get in their season, especially the seniors.
“It will be fun to see them on the court together again.’’
Aune does have some concerns with a lot of the student athletes not being able to do organized team activities since last March. “I’m a little worried about conditioning’’ due to that.
Aune is looking forward to 10-11 days of good practice, rolling out the basketballs and seeing what happens.
“I know these kids are ready to get in the gym’’ in preparation for the Jan. 14 opener at Cherry.
Games and events in basketball, hockey, wrestling, hockey and skiing have already been scheduled across the region.