August COVID-19 Update
Special Olympics Oregon COVID-19 RELATED UPDATES as of 8/19/2020
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present significant challenges to our daily lives. Schools in Oregon will start the new school year at home with remote learning. Oregon Scholastic Activities Association (OSAA) has suspended fall high school sports. Many community-based programs have suspended or placed significant restrictions on sports and other activities around the state.
Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR) would like to address our approach to next steps regarding our plans to return to any type of in-person sports training and competition and other gatherings. Here is an update from Special Olympics Oregon:
The health and well-being of our athletes is our top priority. To help to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and in response to circumstances created by the outbreak, here are the UPDATED precautions/actions Special Olympics Oregon is taking as of August 19, 2020.
NO Special Olympics Oregon in-person training, competitions, events or gatherings (including local program team in-person meetings or registration events) shall take place through at least November 30, 2020. We will continue to assess the situation and provide updated guidance in the coming weeks/months. There is the possibility that this new return date for any type of SOOR in-person gatherings could again be extended should circumstances warrant. This new extended date is based on the strong recommendations from Special Olympics, Inc. as well as guidelines shared by the CDC and Oregon Health Authority. We have also been talking directly to our local program and athlete leaders around the state. Collectively, this group has expressed concern about returning to any in-person activities too soon and putting our athletes and volunteers at risk of infecting others or becoming infected through any SOOR in-person gatherings.
Cases of community spread of COVID-19 are still occurring in several parts of the state. Oregon Health Authority models project the potential for moderate to significant increases in the coming weeks as colder weather approaches. Testing and contact tracing are not yet widespread enough to fully understand the full scope of risk to our athletes – many of whom are at higher risk for infection and negative outcomes due to infection. It is estimated that as many as one-half to two-thirds of our athletes fall into the high-risk category. For a complete list of the underlying health and other conditions that Special Olympics, Inc. has determined to be high risk, please click here - SOI FACT SHEET ON WHO IS HIGH RISK.
2020 FALL VIRTUAL SPORTS SEASON & EVENTS + ONGOING AT HOME HEALTH, FITNESS, WELLNESS PROGRAMMING
During a time when Special Olympics Oregon is not able to offer in-person sports training or competition opportunities due to COVID-19 safety concerns, we want to ensure that athletes, Unified partners, volunteers, supporters and their families still have a variety of opportunities to engage in meaningful healthy, active and social activities.
In addition to continuing to offer virtual opportunities through the SOOR ACTIVE – AT HOME HEALTH, FITNESS, WELLNESS COMMUNITY (which now has nearly 800 members), Special Olympics Oregon is excited to offer a Fall Virtual Sports Season which will provide opportunities for participants to train and compete in various sports with the support of local and statewide coaches and mentors. Participants can take part in athletics (track & field), golf, soccer, and fitness as sport.
Special Olympics Oregon has also introduced Esports presented by Sony as another way for athletes and Unified partners to engage in meaningful social interaction through on-line skills training and competition. Esports will also be included in the fall season. To learn more about this program, please go to SOOR Esports.
The season will culminate with the 2020 Special Olympics Oregon Fall Virtual Games which will take place in November and will feature opening ceremonies and games celebration week featuring theme days, awards, highlight reels, a dance party and more!
More detailed information about how to sign up for the 2020 SOOR Fall Virtual Sports Season will be shared in early September. In fact, SOOR will be sending a sign-up letter via US Mail to EVERY athlete and Unified partner in our database who has participated in our program within the past 3 years. We want to make sure that ALL of our athletes and Unified partners across the state know about this opportunity and have a chance to be involved.
The guiding principles for the Fall Virtual Sports Season are:
- Activities are structured within a season and are sports-focused
- Every activity can be completed safely and easily by athletes with a wide range of skill levels with little or no equipment
- Events are easy to do anywhere, family members can join in, and modifications are permitted
- Events are designed to reinforce athletes’ skills and help them maintain or even improve their fitness
- Each participant has a coach/mentor, similar to what we do with in-person events
- So that all our athletes, family members, volunteers, and sponsors still feel the social connection that makes Special Olympics so meaningful, we’re reaching out and keeping people connected through direct mail, email and social media
Our Unified Champion Schools programs will work directly with school districts across Oregon for additional school-based virtual inclusive sports, leadership and schoolwide engagement opportunities as the school year begins virtually for students around the state.
Special Olympics Oregon will also be launching another Fitness Challenge towards the end of the year. Stay tuned for more details.
2021 WINTER SEASON
What do we expect for the upcoming Winter Season for basketball, powerlifting and snow sports? It is still too early to know what to expect for the first few months of 2021. We will work on various scenarios and make a decision as that season approaches.
Special Olympics Oregon may need to continue to offer virtual (no in-person) only programming for the 2021 Winter Season, but we have not made any final decisions.
COMMUNICATION & VIRTUAL TOWN HALL MEETINGS
Our response to this outbreak is a dynamic situation. For now, we simply do not have enough information to speculate or plan beyond the information shared above. The direct conversations with local program and school-based program leaders around the state have been very important in helping us shape these plans.
In recent weeks, Special Olympics Oregon staff conducted Local Program Team Member Webinars and have scheduled two Community Virtual Town Halls to help answer questions and gather feedback from our volunteer leaders, athletes, coaches, families and supporters.
SAVE THE DATES:
- SOOR Virtual Town Hall Meeting #1 – Tuesday, September 1, 2020, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
- SOOR Virtual Town Hall Meeting #2 – Thursday, September 3, 2020, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Continue to be safe out there. Take care of yourselves. We miss you all and look forward to the day when we can all gather again.