Youth sports and other extracurriculars are spreading COVID-19, officials warn

(CNN) – Children may be spreading COVID-19 through their extracurricular activities such as sports, health officials have warned.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted that after-school activities are creating hotbeds where the coronavirus can spread among children.

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“We know that these increases are due, in part, to higher transmission variants, which we monitor very closely,” Walensky said Monday during the White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing.

The virus was linked to high school wrestling tournaments in Florida last December, in which 38 people tested positive, according to a report the CDC released in January.

In Minnesota, SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 spread in Carver County with at least 68 cases associated with youth sports activities, such as hockey, wrestling and basketball, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

This variant of the new coronavirus, which was originally detected in the United Kingdom, is approximately 50% more transmissible than other strains of the virus in the US This was established by researchers in the journal Cell last March.

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The CDC recommends limiting children’s participation in youth sports and following specific guidelines when engaging in youth sports. The agency listed nearly a dozen different recommendations. Among them, minimizing the time spent indoors and reducing the duration of close contact between players.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, warned of the spread of COVID-19 among minors participating in youth sports.

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“We are finding that it is the team sports where children gather, obviously many without masks, that are driving the increase (in cases), rather than in the classroom,” Fauci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday at Good Morning America. “When you come back, you take a look and try to trace where these outbreaks of cases come from at school, it’s just that.”

Staying safe in the field

There may be an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission in informal settings like extracurricular activities and sports, compared to formal settings, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. The reason, he explained, is that people are more likely to let their guard down.

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She recommends that children play outside whenever possible and not share water bottles. Youth should also be on high alert in locker and locker room areas.

Parents should inquire about their sports league protocols if a player tests positive, Wen added. Some of the questions he advises parents are: “Will they be contacted promptly if there is a positive case? How is contact tracing done? ‘

Wen said it’s important to stay vigilant as covid-19 variants evolve.

“With a more contagious variant, that means that activities that we thought were safer will now have a higher risk,” Wen emphasized.

CNN’s Jen Christensen and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.

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