Experts say youth sports contribute to COVID-19 spike, while parents say it helps their children

Hundreds of youth sports teams hit fields across the valley today. Arizona is a hot spot for youth sports, including teams from out of state that have tougher COVID-19 restrictions.

This week, however, Maricopa County health officials said these games are playing a big role in our state's spike in coronavirus cases.

For the East Valley Baseball League, parents cheered on their players from a distance.

"It's good for his health, his physical health, his mental health," said Lauren Kitmitto.

About 800 teams are flocking to Maricopa County for tournaments, where compared to many other states, COVID precautions are not as strict.

"Having these events where people do not socially distance is how we end up with increases we're seeing."

But parents out at the games say they're not too concerned given all the precautions being taken.

"I do feel very comfortable with him playing and I am not concerned at all," Kitmitto said.

"I think it's very safe out here especially being outdoor and all. Probably freshest air we're going to have besides the beach," said Shannon Smith, a dad.

At these Gene Autry Park games in Mesa, players are told to social distance whenever possible. Parents are asked to wear masks and only one parent per child is allowed to attend the game.

Some parents from Flagstaff live-streamed the game to keep those up north in the loop.

"The parents can watch it on the Facebook and then we also do game changer, so parents can watch that live on their phones," said Cindy Iniguez, a mom.

And during a year that's been tough on many, these parents say sports is the outlet these kids need right now.

"It's really in the hearts and minds of the kids. If they are being safe, then they should have the right to play," Smith said.

As of right now there are five known cases of COVID-19 in the East Valley Baseball League. All of those cases are parents, not players. 

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.