Youth Sports Are Driving the Spread of COVID in Schools Right Now, CDC Says

Youth sports are leading to the spread of COVID-19 in schools right now, according to health experts.

As kids continue to play indoor sports like basketball, hockey and wrestling, sometimes without masks, it's causing an increase in cases in parts of the U.S., said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert.

"We're finding out that it's the team sports where kids are getting together, obviously many without masks, that are driving it — rather than in-the-classroom spread," Fauci told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America Tuesday. "When you go back and take a look and try and track where these clusters of cases are coming from in the school, it's just that."

Local health departments in Florida and Minnesota have traced outbreaks back to youth sports. In Minnesota, officials identified a cluster of infections with the faster-spreading B.1.1.7 variant first found in the U.K., and determined that 68 cases could be linked back to school activities like hockey, wrestling, basketball and skiing.

Officials in Carver County, where the outbreak was found, recommended in early March that school and club team sports pause for two weeks. They also advised nearby counties that recently competed against teams from Carver County have their kids undergo COVID-19 testing and reiterate the need for masks.

Florida also dealt with an outbreak stemming from high school wrestling tournaments in December, with 38 people testing positive, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control.  

The large outbreaks may be a result of the faster-spreading variants that are now dominate in the U.S., said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control.

"We know that these increases are due, in part, to more highly transmissible variants, which we are very closely monitoring," she said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Monday, CNN reported.

While sports have been driving a rise in cases, classrooms are not, the CDC said in March. With kids, teachers and staff all wearing masks in the classroom across the U.S., the health agency was able to reduce the suggested 6 feet of distancing between desks to just 3 feet, allowing more students to get back in the classroom.

"Safe in-person instruction gives our kids access to critical social and mental health services that prepare them for the future, in addition to the education they need to succeed. These updated recommendations provide the evidence-based roadmap to help schools reopen safely, and remain open, for in-person instruction," Walensky said in a statement when announcing the new guidelines on March 19.

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