June COVID-19 update
Special Olympics Oregon COVID-19 RELATED UPDATES as of 6/30/2020
As more activities continue to reopen around the state, we would like to address our approach to next steps regarding Special Olympics Oregon 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 June 30, 2020:
NO Special Olympics Oregon training, competitions, events or gatherings (including local program team in-person meetings or registration events) shall take place through at least August 31, 2020. We will continue to assess the situation and provide updated guidance in the coming weeks. There is the possibility that this new return date for any type of SOOR in-person gatherings could again be extended to even later in the year 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 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-persongatherings.
Currently, cases of community spread of COVID-19 are occurring in several parts of the state. Oregon Health Authority models project the potential for moderate to significant increases in new cases over the next month. 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 SPORTS SEASON & EVENTS
At this time, we do not see a scenario where it will be safe enough to return to any larger scalein-person sports training or competition for quite some time – especially anything that would require travel between counties. Therefore, Special Olympics Oregon has made the decision to CANCEL all 2020 Fall Regional Games competitions in aquatics, bowling, soccer, and volleyball which were scheduled for October and November. As part of suspending sports training and competition until it is safe for our athletes to return to play, in collaboration with Nike leadership, we also made the decision to postpone the 2020 Nike Youth Games until Spring 2021.
Our Unified Champion Schools programs will work directly with school districts across the state regarding any in-school or interschool activities that will occur. No set plans have been confirmed.
There is still the potential for the opportunity to return to some form of very limited, in-person sports/fitness training opportunities for very small groups (10 total participants or fewer) at some point during the fall for those who do not fall into the high-risk category, but we will need to continue to take a long-term approach to this. Any return would require significant risk mitigation including advanced training of volunteers and athletes about safety protocols which would include on-site screening, use of masks, social distancing, sanitizing of equipment, no direct or in-direct contact (through shared equipment), and modified drills/activities. SOOR will follow the guidance of our international organization along with government and health officialand input from our board and program leaders to determine when it is safe to allow for any level of in-person gatherings.
EXPANDING VIRTUAL and AT HOME SPORTS FITNESS, HEALTH & WELLNESS OPPORTUNITIES
In the meantime, Special Olympics Oregon will continue to grow the virtual fitness, health and wellness opportunities available to keep athletes and Unified partners active and socially engaged while remaining safe at home. We are very proud of the athletes, coaches and volunteers who have helped develop these resources over the past few months.
In addition to continuing to offer virtual opportunities through the SOOR ACTIVE – AT HOME HEALTH, FITNESS, WELLNESS COMMUNITY (which now has more than 700 members), Special Olympics Oregon is in process of developing a Fitness as Sport curriculum which will provide the chance for athletes and Unified partners to train AND compete in select fitness and sports skills activities. There will also be various challenge events in which athletesand volunteers can participate to receive recognition and incentive prizes. The goal is to make Fitness as Sport materials available both on-line and in paper form to ensure that those who do not have access to a computer or smart phone have access to these materials.
Special Olympics Oregon has also introduced Esports as another way for athletes and Unified partners to engage in meaningful social interaction through on-line skills training and competition. To learn more about this program, please go to SOOR Esports .
Special Olympics Oregon will continue to maintain a high level of caution before returning toany level of in-person training and will only bring back regional competitions when it is safe to do so. Regional competitions often require travel, create large gatherings and are conducted in environments, which by their very nature, put people in close contact with one another for long periods of time. Even after some government health measures are relaxed related to social distancing and gatherings, these events will be the final part of the SOOR return to program offerings.
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 the plans shared above.
In the coming weeks, Special Olympics Oregon staff plan to conduct Local Program Team Member Webinars and Community Virtual Town Halls to help answer questions and gather feedback from our volunteer leaders, athletes, coaches, families and supporters. More details about these events will be shared soon.
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.