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JOCO health officials say high school winter sports risky without COVID-19 mitigation

Posted at 6:11 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 19:11:27-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Officials at the Johnson County, Kansas, Department of Health and Environment made a strong recommendation Tuesday that school districts in the county not allow winter sports.

The recommendation came in a letter sent today to all Johnson County school superintendents.

"Indoor winter sports represent the next challenge in this school year,'' JCDHE Director Dr. Sanmi Areola said in the letter. "The risk of transmission of the virus is significantly higher indoors. Therefore, the JCDHE strongly recommends that you do not allow indoor sports or activities where mitigation techniques are not possible, such as basketball or wrestling, due to the level of community transmission and consequently, the risks involved. It is significantly more difficult to implement risk mitiigation measures, such as masking and distancing, in these activities. The chances of widespread transmission in schools is higher is these indoor activities are performed, especially when spectators are allowed.''

Dr. Areola said schools should take precautions that include masking, cohorting teams, testing to identify cases, not allowing spectator attendance or limiting attendance to family members and monitoring for symptoms.

There were positive COVID-19 cases on at least three Johnson County high school football teams, according to the letter.

Those cases resulted in nearly 200 players and others to be quarantined, the letter states.

The decision whether to play winter sports is ultimately left to the school districts.