In recent weeks, Governor Lamont has recognized increased rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death rates across Connecticut as well as increases in COVID-19 transmission among children and adults related to sports.  Responding to these trends, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 9M on November 20, 2020 authorizing the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development to establish, in consultation with the Commissioner of Public Health, mandatory rules for the safe conduct of all sports activities.  Executive Order 9M repeals and supersedes Section 4 of Executive Order 9K, issued on November 5, 2020, which had authorized the Commissioner to enact mandatory rules for the safe conduct of youth sports only.

In response to Executive Order 9M, the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) issued rules regarding Team Sports on Pause (“DECD Rules”) placing all “Team” sporting activities except for approved collegiate and professional sports on pause from November 23, 2020 through January 19, 2021, subject to certain exceptions (the “Pause”).  The DECD Rules define “Team” as “a group of more than 4 people jointly engaged in an organized or recreational activity on a court, field, etc.”  Although the Pause affects “all sporting activities” except for those sanctioned at the collegiate and professional levels, not all athletic activities have been Paused at this time.  The DECD Rules outline what is prohibited and allowed during the Pause, with reference to different risk categories associated with different sports.  Notably, school gym classes are still permitted, except that no Team sports subject to the Pause may be played.

Separate and apart from the new DECD Rules, the DECD Sector Rules for Sports, Sports Clubs & Complexes, Gyms, Fitness Centers & Pools (“Sector Rules for Sports”) were updated on November 9, 2020 to provide that “all interscholastic, club, recreational, and amateur sports must follow the most current guidance issued by the Department of Public Health. . . . If not recommended by the Department of Public Health [DPH], the activity is not allowed.”  Therefore, for any athletic activities not currently on Pause, schools (and other sports organizers) must also follow DPH’s Updated Guidance for the Operation of Interscholastic, Youth and Other Amateur Sports Activities during the COVID-19 Pandemic (the “November DPH Guidance”).  Unless the November DPH Guidance is later updated or superseded by other rules or laws, it will also govern the conduct of sports now on Pause when the Pause ends.

Finally, schools sponsoring interscholastic sports teams must also comply with the CIAC Winter Sports Update.  On November 17, 2020, the CIAC Board of Control postponed all winter sports until January 19, 2021, indicating that it would continue to collaborate with relevant authorities “in the weeks leading up to the January 19th start of winter practices.”

As public health data and conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to develop, DECD rules and DPH guidance may change and Governor Lamont may issue additional Executive Orders affecting sports.  It is therefore critical for school districts and other sports organizers to monitor announcements from all relevant authorities and to consult with local public health officials when determining the next steps for athletics.

If you have specific questions about the operation of youth sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Jessica Richman Smith at jsmith@goodwin.com or Dori Pagé Antonetti at dantonetti@goodwin.com.