Town of Dedham warns youth sports are contributing to COVID-19 spread

BOSTON — Cicy Joseph was excited to sign her 10-year-old son up for club soccer in Boston.

“This is the only time he actually gets out of the house,” Joseph said as her son practiced with his team at Millennium Park Wednesday afternoon.

Now Joseph, who lives with her family in the “high risk” community of Brockton, is wondering if her son’s league will finish out the season.

“With the new spread and the new cases coming up, maybe… it’s not going to be an option anymore,” Joseph said.

More and more communities are taking a closer look at youth sports and how they may be contributing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Town officials in Ipswich and Dedham issued separate warnings Wednesday after experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases.

Dedham’s Board of Health, after reporting 17 new cases in the last week, pointed the finger right at youth sports.

“Most of the positive cases have been confirmed in young children and teens…primarily tied to social gatherings and activities that occur before and after youth sporting events, like team dinners and get-togethers,” the town said in a statement.

New Hampshire recently suspended indoor hockey after health officials traced more than 150 coronavirus cases to 23 different indoor hockey teams and organizations.

“This will enable us to continue to work with rink owners hockey pro programs, public health, and the attorney general’s office to put additional safeguards in place enabling the rinks to clean and sanitize in time for the players and their families to get tested,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said last week.

Dr. Shira Doron, an epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, said indoor sports like hockey and basketball are inherently more risky than outdoor games like football and soccer.

But she warned if children are together on a bus or at a restaurant after the game, it may not matter how careful they are on the field.

“We have to find that balance. Massachusetts has some pretty robust guidance on youth sports, and we have to follow it to the T,” Dr. Doron said.

Jeff from Jamaica Plain watched his 10-year-old son practice with his New England Futbol Club soccer team Wednesday afternoon.

“Those things aren’t happening in the club we participate in. There’s no dinners or get-togethers,” he said.

Jeff said NEFC has drastically changed the rules to reduce contact, including eliminating throw-ins and walls.

“I think most of these clubs that are practicing are taking the proper precautions,” he said.

There was one positive sign at Millennium Park: every child on the field was wearing a mask.

“He knows that if he wants to participate in stuff like soccer, he has to use [a mask],” Joseph said. “It’s the new way of life I guess.”

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