The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many complex challenges to the operation of academic and athletic institutions in Connecticut and around the world. As Watertown Oakville Little League (WOLL) seeks to uphold our standard of providing our athletes with exceptional experiences in the social, emotional, educational, and athletic settings we are challenged with many unknowns. Throughout this challenging time, WOLL has maintained that when the time is right, we will play again. As the governor begins to implement reopening phases for Connecticut, it’s appropriate to consider guidance for the safe return of baseball and softball. The guidance offered by WOLL is based on our core values and beliefs in accordance with state health guidelines, CIAC, and Little League International. Any participation in WOLL is considered voluntary. WOLL and its volunteers will always put physical, mental, and social-emotional well-being of our youth to safely re-engage in physical activity and athletic competition.
Returning to play does not mean a return to “normal”. While re-socializing to activity we are still responsible for doing our part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Any consideration of returning to physical activity and athletic competition must adhere to all requirements set forth under the executive orders of Governor Lamont, account for the health and safety of all participants, and equitably provide opportunities for all athletes. We all must understand that COVID-19 is born out of a global health pandemic. This is a health issue, not a sport issue. Sports have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and our athletes have been significantly affected. It is our primary responsibility to provide safe physical activity that does not contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Our decisions should also come from a mindset that there is still much to be learned about COVID-19 and multisystem inflammatory syndrome of COVID. According to the CDC, “We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19.” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children/mis-c.html) A safe return to activity requires a gradual phase-in approach that accounts for participant and community safety.
Deconditioning/Regression The sudden closure of school and recreational activities has left youth-athletes without structured physical activity since mid-March. A safe return to youth athletic experiences must account for the deconditioning which may have occurred during this prolonged departure from normal physical conditioning and skill development. Prolonged inactivity can result in decreased cardiovascular function, decreased pulmonary function, muscle atrophy, and skill regression. In addition, acclimation to the environment should be considered. The last time youth-athletes engaged in structured physical activity was during the cool weather month of March. Traditionally, youth-athletes progressively acclimate to physical activity in warmer weather over the months of April, May, and June. Returning to game play scenarios in August without a structured re-conditioning program could be dangerous for our young athletes.
For further information, please refer to (2020 NFHS Guidance for Opening up High School Athletics and Activities, 2020) Conditioning, Practice Sessions, and Contests CAS-CIAC guidelines for a resocialization of interscholastic athletics and activities programs align with guidance published by Governor Lamont’s Reopen CT committee on youth sports and the NFHS (NFHS phases are in accordance with guidelines published by the White House and CDC available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/).
*******Summary of Adopted Modifications for all WOLL Baseball/Softball Activities*******
-At all times social distancing guidelines as dictated by the State of Connecticut will be followed. There will be no exceptions to these recommendations and it’s essential all spectators, coaches, umpires, and players follow. In the event individuals choose to not follow the guidelines, they will be asked to leave.
-Players must not participate if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 (temp 100. or greater, cough, respiratory symptoms) or have had known exposure to a person with COVID-19. All individuals are responsible for self-testing. If there is any doubt, stay home and contact your physician.
-Players must bring their own drinks/water and there can be NO SHARING. None will be provided. The concession stand will NOT be open.
-There will be no handshakes, spitting, gum, sunflower seeds, high fives or any other contact between players and coaches. We must all avoid respiratory droplet transfer.
-Coaches must wear facemasks at all times.
-Players are encouraged to use their own equipment (helmet, glove, bat). The league is working diligently regarding players without personal equipment. There can be no sharing of any equipment. Remember bats must be USA approved.
-Players will use the benches, bleachers and personal chairs on their side of the field so that they may practice social distancing when not on defense. There will be a coaching clinic to instruct on proper ways of maintaining 6 ft social distancing.
- Players waiting on offense/defense who are observing the game from their designated seat must wear a facemask. Players “in action” are NOT required to wear masks but may if they chose to. Players will bring their own masks.
-Players will use hand sanitizer prior to going on defense each inning. Hand sanitizer will be provided by the family of each child.
-Spectators will be seated and will practice social distancing. Its best practice to wear cloth facemasks at all times.
-Families should limit the number of spectators to immediate family.
-Game-use baseballs will be changed out every inning and sanitized. The defensive team will bring out their own ball to minimize contact. The coach should sanitize the ball when the team comes off the field from their defensive inning.
-Foul balls will be retrieved by players, coaches, or umpires. Spectators should not retrieve the ball to limit people contacting baseballs.
-Umpires will stand behind the pitcher’s mound, wear a face mask and practice social distancing from the players where possible. The umpires will perform their duties to the best of their abilities and there should be NO arguments between officials and coaches, players, or spectators.
-Bathrooms will be CLOSED. Sorry for the inconvenience but the WOLL coaches will not be able to sanitize to the state recommendations.
-Postgame gatherings should be avoided. Please be especially careful in the parking lots as it is advised to meet your children at your vehicle after the games. Please do not congregate in the parking lots.
**The modifications above are in part a summary of the following CDC guidelines below**
As some communities in the United States begin to convene youth camps, CDC offers the following suggestions for ways in which camp administrators can help protect campers, staff, and communities, and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Camp administrators can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials, whether and how to implement these considerations, making adjustments to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community. These suggestions are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which camps must comply.
The more people a camper or staff member interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in youth camp settings as follows:
Lowest Risk: Small groups of campers stay together all day, each day. Campers remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects. Outdoor activities are prioritized. All campers are from the local geographic area (e.g., city, town, county, community).
More Risk: Campers mix between groups but remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects. Outdoor activities are prioritized. All campers are from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
Even More Risk: Campers mix between groups and do not remain spaced apart. All campers are from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
Highest Risk: Campers mix between groups and do not remain spaced apart. All campers are not from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as handwashing, staying home when sick) and environmental cleaning and disinfection are important principles that are covered in this document. Fortunately, there are a number of actions youth camp administrators can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread during camp sessions and activities.
Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread
Camp administrators may consider implementing several strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Staying Home when Appropriate
Educate staff, campers, and their families about when they should stay home and when they can return to camp.
Actively encourage employees and campers who are sick or have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisal, and ensure employees are aware of these policies.
Teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and increase monitoring to ensure adherence among campers and staff.
If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).
Encourage staff and campers to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used (for staff and older campers who can safely use hand sanitizer).
Cloth Face Coverings
Teach and reinforce the use of cloth face coverings. Face coverings may be challenging for campers (especially younger campers) to wear in all-day settings such as camp. Face coverings should be worn by staff and campers (particularly older campers) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Information should be provided to staff and campers on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.
Note: Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:
Babies or children younger than 2 years old
Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without help
Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks, respirators, or other medical personal protective equipment.
Support healthy hygienepdf icon by providing supplies including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (for staff and older campers who can safely use hand sanitizer), paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, cloth face coverings (as feasible), and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans.
Broadcast regular announcements on reducing the spread of COVID-19 on PA system
Include messages (for example, videos) about behaviors that prevent spread of COVID-19 when communicating with staff and families (such as on camp websites, in emails, and through camp social media accounts).
Camp administrators may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy environments.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains) within the camp facility and in any shared transportation vehicles at least daily or between use as much as possible. Use of shared objects (e.g., art supplies, nap mats, toys, games) should be limited when possible, or cleaned between use.
Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
If transport vehicles (e.g., buses) are used by the camp, drivers should practice all safety actions and protocols as indicated for other staff (e.g., hand hygiene, cloth face coverings). To clean and disinfect school buses or other transport vehicles, see guidance for bus transit.
Keep each camper’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.
Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high-touch materials to the extent possible (e.g., assign art supplies or other equipment to a single camper), or limit use of supplies and equipment to one group of campers at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids.
Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk (e.g., risk of falling or triggering asthma symptoms) to campers using the facility.
To minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water, take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (e.g., sink faucets, drinking fountains, showers, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown. Drinking fountains should be cleaned and sanitized, but encourage staff and campers to bring their own water to minimize use and touching of water fountains.
Space seating at least 6 feet apart.
If nap times are scheduled, ensure that campers’ naptime mats are assigned to individual children, are sanitizedexternal icon before and after use, and spaced out as much as possible, ideally at least 6 feet apart. Place campers head-to-toe to ensure distance between their faces.
Prioritize outdoor activities where social distancing can be maintained as much as possible.
Create social distance between campers on school buses (e.g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.
Physical Barriers and Guides
Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., reception desks).
Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and campers remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g., guides for creating “one way routes” in hallways).
Close shared spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds with shared playground equipment, if possible; otherwise stagger use and clean and disinfect between use.
Use disposable food service items (utensils, dishes). If disposable items are not feasible or desirable, ensure that all non-disposable food service items are handled with gloves and washed with dish soap and hot water or in a dishwasher. Individuals should wash their hands after removing their gloves or after directly handling used food service items.
Camp administrators may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations.
Protections for Staff and Campers who are at Higher Risk of Severe Illness from COVID-19
Offer options for staff at higher risk for severe illness (including older adults and people of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions) that limit exposure risk (e.g., telework and modified job responsibilities).
For staff and campers: Limit camp attendance to staff and campers who live in the local geographic area (e.g., community, city, town, or county) to reduce risk of spread from areas with higher levels of COVID-19.
Be aware of local or state regulatory agency policies related to group gatherings to determine if events can be held.
Identifying Small Groups and Keeping Them Together (Cohorting)
Keep campers together in small groups with dedicated staff and make sure they remain with the same group throughout the day, every day.
Limit mixing between groups if possible.
Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations by cohort (group) or put in place other protocols to limit contact between cohorts and with other campers’ guardians as much as possible.
When possible, use flexible worksites (e.g., telework) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for social distancing (maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet) between employees and others, especially if social distancing is recommended by state and local health authorities.
Gatherings, Visitors, and Field Trips
Avoid group events, gatherings, or meetings where social distancing of at least 6 feet between people cannot be maintained. Limit group size to the extent possible.
Limit any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations as much as possible – especially with individuals not from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
Avoid activities and events such as field trips and special performances.
Pursue options to convene sporting events and participation in sports activities in ways that minimize transmission of COVID-19 to players, families, coaches, and communities.
Designated COVID-19 Point of Contact
Designate a staff person (e.g., camp nurse or healthcare provider) to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All camp staff and families should know who this person is and how to contact them.
Notifying staff and families of camp closures and restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure (e.g., limited hours of operation).
Leave (Time Off) Policies
Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices that enable employees to stay home when they are sick, have been exposed, or caring for someone who is sick.
Examine and revise policies for leave, telework, and employee compensation.
Leave policies should be flexible and not punish people for taking time off, and should allow sick employees to stay home and away from co-workers. Leave policies should also account for employees who need to stay home with their children if there are school or childcare closures, or to care for sick family members.
Monitor absenteeism of campers and staff, cross-train staff, and create a roster of trained back-up staff.
Train staff on all safety protocols.
Conduct training virtually or ensure that social distancing is maintained during training.
Recognize Signs and Symptoms
If feasible, conduct daily health checks (e.g., temperature screening and/or symptom checking) of staff and campers (if feasible) safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.
Make sure that staff and families know that they (staff) or their children (families) should not come to camp, and that they should notify camp officials (e.g., the designated COVID-19 point of contact) if they (staff) or their child (families) become sick with COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with symptoms or a confirmed or suspected case.
If a person becomes sick and needs to be transported, establish procedures for safely transporting them. If you are calling an ambulance or bringing someone to a healthcare facility, try to call first to alert them that the person may have COVID-19.
Clean and Disinfect
Close off areas used by a sick person and do not use these areas until after cleaning and disinfecting them (for outdoor areas, this includes surfaces or shared objects in the area, if applicable).
Wait at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible. Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaningexternal icon and disinfection products, including storing them securely away from children.
Public Health Considerations for Reopening Youth Programs and Camps During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The purpose of this tool is to assist directors or administrators in making (re)opening decisions regarding youth programs and camps during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community.
Should you consider opening?
Will reopening be consistent with applicable state and local orders?
Are you ready to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness?
Are you able to screen children and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure?
Are recommended health and safety actions in place?
Regularly communicate and monitor developments with local authorities, employees, and families regarding cases, exposures, and updates to policies and procedures
Monitor child and employee absences and have a pool of trained substitutes, and flexible leave policies and practices
Be ready to consult with the local health authorities if there are cases in the facility or an increase in cases in the local area
This is an ongoing and adaptable summary of the initial steps to be taken and enforced starting July of the 2020 season and moving forward. The WOLL Executive Board will communicate regularly and will not hesitate to make further modifications to ensure the safety of our players and league. Our decisions will be evidence based. We hope the trending cases of COVID 19 continue to drop in Connecticut. We will always place the health and safety of our shared community as the first priority.