Youth sports, not the recent reopening of schools, has been cited for the recent rise of new COVID-19 cases among youths across America, federal health officials said.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that the latest data found that COVID is spreading rapidly among younger Americans participating in after-school activities such as sports and clubs, where they gather unsafely in clusters.
Walensky noted that the reopening of schools has not been linked to the rise in US cases, which are up approximately 3 percent week-to-week as the country contends with the latest wave of the virus, fueled by the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain, which originated in the United Kingdom.
“We are learning that many outbreaks in young people are related to youth sports and extracurricular activities,” Walenksy said this week at a White house COVID-19 Response Team briefing.
“This is among 18- to 24-year-olds where we’re actually seeing some peaks in cases,” she added. “Cases are increasing nationally, and we’re seeing this predominantly in younger adults.”
Outbreaks among teens and younger Americans have been tied to high school wrestling tournaments, and other physical youth sports, including hockey, wrestling, and basketball, though the data has not been linked to the reopening of schools.
According to the CDC, children should limit youth sport participation and follow specific guidelines when engaging in those types of activities, including minimizing the time spent indoors and reducing the amount of time players spend in close contact with each other.
In December, the CDC issued guidance for youth sports, saying that each community may need to make adjustments to meet its own unique circumstances.
The CDC has also encouraged local youth sports and activity organizations to clean and disinfect surfaces on the fields, courts, equipment, and other shared objects, enforce mask-wearing, limit team sizes, and practice physical distancing.
Currently, the CDC guidance on youth sports is to have them be “limited,” Walensky said, however, if they are not, outbreaks can still be contained. She also cited B.1.1.7 and other COVID-19 variants that have proven to be more transmissible than the original strain.
“We know that these increases are due, in part, to more highly transmissible variants, which we are very closely monitoring,” Walensky added.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci also cautioned about the spread of COVID-19 among youth participating in after-school sports and other extracurricular activities.
“We're finding out that it's the team sports where kids are getting together, obviously many without masks, that are driving it, rather than in the classroom spread,” he said on Good Morning America this week. “When you go back and take a look and try and track where these clusters of cases are coming from in the school, it's just that."
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