New rules opening competitive sports opportunities for lower and moderate risk sports such as gymnastics, basketball, ice hockey, indoor track, and swimming will go into effect today, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces. Although interscholastic teams for these lower and moderate risk sports have been allowed to practice, competitive meets and games have been paused since December. The new guidance can be found here and FAQs are here.

“We all recognize and appreciate that Rhode Island athletes have had to sacrifice a lot during the pandemic, and in recent weeks by not engaging in competitions. Similarly, indoor sports facilities have suffered during the pauses,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in a statement provided in a news release, who has led state efforts regulating sports throughout the pandemic. “Although school sports will experience a shortened winter season, we hope that participating in competitive games and meets will benefit our kids’ physical and mental wellness and help them feel more connected to their school communities.”

The new guidance strongly encourages sports teams and leagues to require athletes, coaches, and officials to get weekly COVID-19 tests. A weekly testing protocol can quickly identify COVID-19 positive athletes, even those who do not have symptoms, and move them to isolation more quickly, which will help stop the spread to teammates and other close contacts.

According to DEM, if a player, coach, official, or member of a team, sports organization, or stable group tests positive for COVID-19, all members of the team or group who have been in close contact with the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 will need to quarantine for up to 10 days or in accordance with Executive Orders and directions from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) – or in accordance with school quarantine policies in the case of a student-athlete. If RIDOH identifies a positive COVID-19 case or outbreak connected to an athlete, coach, official, or sports team or organization, all activities associated with that case or outbreak should immediately cease, and all participants and organizations should fully and promptly cooperate with RIDOH case investigation and contact tracing, and follow the instructions provided from RIDOH regarding the need to quarantine and when activities may resume.

The Rhode Island Interscholastic League put out the following statement on Twitter today.

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and serves on the Board of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and Lucy's Hearth. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.