ST. PAUL -- Outdoor youth sports games and scrimmages can resume Wednesday, June 24, in Minnesota, the Department of Health said Friday, June 19.

For indoor sports, the recommended date is July 1, the health department said.

The new guidance seeks to balance the goals of minimizing disease transmission and allowing young people to engage in sports activities that have important physical, emotional and social benefits, a news release stated.

The guidance follows that of many national sports organizations, which suggest returning to game play in a phased approach. That may include individual workouts, then moving to intra-squad scrimmages before finally moving into inter-team games.

“It is important that we look for opportunities to allow children to engage in activities that promote health and well-being,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “While several key metrics show COVID-19 transmission is slowing, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Learning to live with COVID-19 means finding ways to balance risks and benefits, and that’s what we are seeking to do with this guidance.”

The health department continues to urge everyday steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Those include wearing masks in public, social distancing and getting tested if feeling ill. The new youth sports guidance also asks coaches, staff and spectators to practice social distancing and to wear a face covering at all times. Players, too, are advised to wear a face covering when possible.

Organizations are required to have a COVID-19 preparedness plan that integrates MDH guidance as well as current social distancing and social gathering requirements, the health department said.

State officials say its important for organizations to give families time to make decisions on whether or not their youth returns to group activities this summer.

“This guidance can help organizations and teams reduce risk, but in the end everyone has to make their own decisions about what level of risk they are willing to accept,” Malcolm said. “Some families, especially those with members who face an elevated risk of severe illness, may choose not to participate. That is perfectly OK, and everyone needs to respect that decision when a family or a player makes it.”

Additional precautions in the new guidance include:

  • Avoid sharing individual water bottles, community snacks or towels.
  • Encourage use of dedicated personal equipment such as bats, mitts, rackets, etc.
  • Find new ways to show sportsmanship – tip your hats instead of handshakes.
  • Ensure policies are considerate of staff, volunteers and participants at highest risk of complications from COVID-19.
  • Adhere to social distancing recommendations when participants are not playing (on the bench, in the dugout, etc.).
  • Practice social distancing of 6 feet from other households during player drop off/pick up.
  • Friends and family should not attend practices to avoid crowding.
  • Maintain health checks and screening of participants and staff/volunteers.
  • Organizations should require participants and family members to stay home when sick.

Guidance for fall sports is expected to become known later this summer, the health department said.

The new guidance also provides additional clarifications and recommendations for adult sports competitions this summer.