Governor Ron DeSantis announced Friday the state would let local governments bring back these programs as they see fit, effective immediately.
Florida’s movement to reopen the state continued last week as Governor Ron DeSantis gave the green light for youth sports and summer camp activities to come back.
In this morning’s press conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis said he trusts “parents to be able to make decisions” regarding the safety of their children and trusts local governments to roll out plans for these activities to resume “in a way that is safe.” The changes went into effect immediately and DeSantis said they will give children the socialization opportunities they’ve been missing since shutdowns and closures began in March. A decisive factor in the governor’s decision, he said, was that no one under age 25 has been reported to have died from complications caused by COVID-19 — but any child who feels sick is still going to be asked to stay home.
“It’s time for our kids to get back to their ‘new normal’ and and it’s time to let kids be kids,” pediatrician Bonnie White, whom DeSantis brought to the press conference, said.
The City of Plant City wasted no time working on its own written order and got right to work after the governor’s press conference, Parks and Recreation department director Jack Holland said.
“We are ready to go,” he said. “This will allow a larger than planned, yet still restricted, size for summer camp complying with CDC guidelines.”
The Parks and Recreation Department announced an action plan for the return to the use of city facilities in a Tuesday press release, citing the CDC guidelines for youth sports and the processes used in Tampa, Temple Terrace and Hillsborough County at large as influences.
Specifically mentioned in the department’s press release is the CDC’s categorization of athletic activities based on the level of transmission risks associated with them:
“The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in youth sports settings as follows:
- Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or
with family members.
- Increasing Risk: Team-based practice.
- More Risk: Within-team competition.
- Even More Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area.
- Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas.
If organizations are not able to keep in place safety measures during competition (for example, maintaining social distancing by keeping children six feet apart at all times), they may consider dropping down a level and limiting participation to within-team competition only (for example, scrimmages between members of the same team) or team-based practices only. Similarly, if organizations are unable to put in place safety measures during team-based activities, they may choose individual or at-home activities, especially if any members of the team are at high-risk for severe illness.”
The CDC’s guiding principles for youth sports int he time of COVID-19 can be viewed online at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/youth-sports.html.
All organizations that wish to use city fields and facilities must be able to provide the city with a Return to Play document, which must then be approved by the city. These documents must include language about “how the organization intends to monitor and enforce CDC, DOH, and local recommendations,” should follow the guidelines set by the organization’s national or state governing body and should include “a waiver form that each participant’s parent/guardian will sign stating their acceptance of the risk associated with the transmission of COVID-19 in an athletic play situation and that neither the organization nor the facility owner makes any guarantee regarding non-transmission of COVID-19 while participating in programs and using the facilities.”
Not all organizations may have a document readily available, so if that’s the case for any Plant City-based organizations, they can make their own and use the Parks and Recreation Department’s Summer Youth Program COVID-19 Policy and Mitigation Plan (provided by the department) as an example.
No organization will be allowed to use city facilities until their Return to Play document has been received and approved, but the city has released a three-part schedule for the gradual phasing in of athletic activities:
“June 1, 2020 – allow local Plant City based youth leagues to begin scheduling organized practices or tryouts only in small groups of 10 or less, no games, no scrimmages, and no tournaments.
June 15, 2020 – allow local Plant City based youth leagues to begin scheduling games among their own players, still no games or scrimmages with non-Plant City based teams from outside our local area, still no tournaments. Plant City and non-Plant City based travel ball teams can begin scheduling organized practices, pending field availability, but no scrimmages or games.
July 6, 2020 – allow scheduled games or scrimmages between local and non-Plant City based teams, allow regional tournaments to schedule resumed weekend play on City fields, all pending field availability.”
Any organized field activity must be scheduled in advance with the Parks and Recreation Department. City-based youth leagues like the Plant City Lancers, Dolphins and Colts will have priority before travel ball teams, tournaments and other things of that nature.”
“We are committed to the health and safety of our facility users and we will continue to take a cautious and measured approach to reopening athletics,” the department said in Tuesday’s press release. “The ability to return to play for sports organizations that cannot meet CDC, DOH or local guidelines may be delayed. Future changes to this process may be required, as revised CDC, DOH or local guidelines may additionally influence our process.”
The city is also going ahead with its Summer Youth Program, which will run from June 8 through July 31 at the Planteen Recreation Center. The Parks and Recreation Department announced Wednesday the program will be filled to 50 percent of its normal capacity to allow for social distancing. Campers will be placed into groups of 10 and they will all get their own drawstring bags full of supplies, breakfsat and lunch. No field trips will be taken.
Special interest classes like senior aerobics, yoga, shuffleboard, baton and more have not resumed and likely will not until August.
Another big presence in the youth sports and summer camp scene, the Plant City Family YMCA, was already hoping for summer camp to start June 1 and taking registrations banking on that date being realistic.
“For summer camp, we’ve been planning something robust and fun starting June 1,” executive director Paul Conley said. “Registration is really picking up right now. We’ve doubled our registration every day this week. I know we’re going to provide a really safe camp this year, a really fun camp.”
Conley said the Plant City Y’s relief care program for children of essential workers helped the staff learn how to adapt to COVID-19 precautions and procedures, helped children learn better hand washing habits and got everybody on board with social distancing. The Y doesn’t have firm return plans for its own youth sports programs right now, but Conley said he expects them to roll out soon in some limited capacity and, provided the state doesn’t experience a severe spike in its infection rate and reinstate prior shutdowns, expand later on.
“Youth sports is a little interesting because of the nature of basketball, for example,” Conley said. “You’re guarding someone very closely and there’s a shared ball. I think right now, we’re gonna do some different activities and sports this summer with smaller groups. Later in the summer, we’ve planned to have youth leagues back. We’re learning. But one thing I’m confident in is that kids will always need activity, the ability to learn sportsmanship and teamwork, so whenever we can do it safely I have no doubt youth sports will be as popular and as needed as ever.”