COVID-19 crowd concerns: 800 youth sports teams coming to the Valley for tournaments

Arizona has become even more popular for youth sporting events this winter, not only because of our great weather, but our COVID-19 guidelines are not as strict as many other states.

Now county health officials say these club tournaments have become coronavirus spreader events - and there are plenty planned for the Nov. 21-22 weekend.

There are up to 800 youth sports teams coming to Maricopa County, so the numbers are huge. But each league I talked to said it's news to them.

Mike Fritz manages the East Valley Football League and he hasn't seen much of a problem.

"First, it's baseball, which is the epitome of social distancing for sports since the kids are not close together. And we're outdoors," he said.

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But county health officials insist youth sports clubs, namely baseball, basketball, and soccer are directly connected to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

"Having these events that aren't socially distant and not wearing masks is how we end up with increases we're seeing, even with the current mitigation efforts in place," said Marcy Flanagan, Executive Director of the Maricopa County Health Department.

Cities like Mesa rent facilities to the leagues, complete with COVID-19 guidelines, including a prior safety plan, plus occupancy and spectator limits. They also provide an on-site supervisor to keep an eye on things. But like in any sport, play at your own risk.

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"COVID is a risk and regardless of when you go to the grocery store or walk to the playing field," said Aimee Manis of Mesa's Parks and Recreation Department.

The East Valley Baseball League knows of five confirmed coronavirus cases from its 90 teams -- all parents, no players.

"I think we got all the stuff in place to combat that and I think we're doing the best we can," said Fritz.

Enforcement is always an issue. Mesa, for instance, says they start with education. And the enforcement measures go up from there, including a call to the police, if necessary.

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In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

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