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State raises concerns with MPA plan to resume high school sports, urges delay to address issues

The commissioners of DHHS and DOE sent a letter Tuesday to MPA Executive Director Michael Burnham.
DHHS and DOE said a further delay to the start of fall sports would allow schools to get the school year underway academically before sports begin.
DHHS and DOE said a further delay to the start of fall sports would allow schools to get the school year underway academically before sports begin.
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 2:59 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 3:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - It looks like there is still a long road ahead before high schools can move forward with sports this fall.

This after DHHS sent a letter Tuesday to Maine Principals’ Association Executive Director Michael Burnham raised concerns over their proposed framework for a return to athletics.

In the letter, the state takes issue with a lack of modifications for sports based on risk saying, “Under the MPA Guidance, student-athletes in even the highest risk sports can compete as they did pre-COVID.”

DHHS Commissioner, Jeanne Lambrew, said during Tuesday’s CDC briefing they have been working with the MPA through this process.

They received a framework for the return to sports last week that was quickly followed by the MPA’s unanimous vote to allow that return.

Officials said during the briefing there were parts of the MPA framework that didn’t line up with safety guidelines.

“There was a reassessment of the relative risk of different sports,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “Soccer as we had previously mentioned we thought it might be a high-risk activity. After consideration and looking at the way it played out, we think it might be medium risk. That’s one example. I think we tried to clarify with masks or face coverings can be worn during sports. There are some sports we actually could wear face coverings which would offer an additional layer of protection. Think we also clarified guidance on road races that had been missing. We wanted to let the Maine Principals’ Association process unfold and not drop something new in the middle of it. Now they’ve gone and turned to us again for guidance. We have updated our community sports guidance and we recommend that they look at it.”

Official practices for high school sports were scheduled to begin a week from Tuesday.

DHHS recommends the MPA delay the start of the fall season while reviewing the new guidance from the state.

The MPA said it needed time to look at the letter before commenting on the next steps.

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