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When will recreational sports return in Utah?

By Josh Furlong, | Posted - May 7, 2020 at 3:49 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Spring sports at the high school, collegiate and professional level have been canceled or at least indefinitely postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But as the state slowly moves to a new normal, there’s still some uncertainty as to when, if at all, recreation sports in the various communities will return.

Utah is currently seven days into the orange, or moderate risk, phase, of its “Utah Leads Together 2.0” coronavirus recovery plan. Residents of the state are still asked to practice social distancing measures, wear masks where social distancing is not possible, such as at the grocery store, and to take “extreme precautions” when leaving their homes.

Under the plan, recreation sports are permitted, but only if the activity does not require “teammates or opponents to be closer than 10 feet from one another,” which eliminates nearly all spring recreation sports, such as baseball, which would be in full swing at this time of the year.

The state, however, said “skills development and conditioning activities” are OK as long as participants maintain social distancing guidelines — stay at least 6 feet away from others and in groups no larger than 20. All equipment used should also be disinfected after each use.

On Thursday, the Utah Youth Soccer Association approved individual training for its member organizations and independent teams, as one such league that has begun lifting recreational orders due to Utah's move to the orange phase.

Gyms and fitness centers are still recommended to remain closed under the plan, but can be opened if social distancing measures are maintained. Employees should go through “symptom checking before every shift,” which includes taking the temperature of each employee. All of that should be kept in a log that is available for the health department to inspect.

Inside a gym or fitness center, participants are asked to maintain the 10-foot rule when involved in sporting activities, and skills development is permissible under the same social distancing rules.

The state will reassess its current recovery phase on or near May 15, which is when Gov. Gary Herbert’s latest executive order expires. Herbert said Thursday the state is doing well in its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 and a shift to a lower-risk phase could be soon, while also acknowledging that not every county in the state has the same risk and could shift to another phase sooner.

Once the state moves into a yellow, or low risk, phase, recreation sports could resume but with “caution” and symptom checking prior to each practice or game. Spectators would also be asked to practice social distancing guidelines. It’s not until Utah moves to the green, or new normal, phase where recreation sports would resume similar to how it existed prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Even though the state may move to lower-risk phases, participants should still monitor their health and not participate if sick. Additionally, Davis County and others have recommended organizations, teams, leagues and families choose for themselves if they feel comfortable with the recreational activities moving forward.

On Thursday, the state released data to show that transmission of COVID-19 in Utah has primarily been within the same household (59.2%) and within social interactions (24.7%).

"As society opens, people are going to have exposures outside of their household members and likely be infected due to people outside their household," said Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist. "So that's why it's super important that people stay at home when they're sick, they maintain social distance measures when they're able to, and that they're wearing a mask when those social distancing measures are just not possible."

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