March COVID-19 Update
as of 3/19/2021
We are pleased with the incredible response we’ve received from athletes, volunteers, and supporters to our virtual programming during the ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19. 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 March 19, 2021.
UPDATE: There will be NO Special Olympics Oregon in-person training, competitions, events or gatherings (including local program team in-person meetings or registration events) through at least July 31, 2021. This new date coincides with the conclusion of the 2021 Special Olympics Oregon Summer Virtual Sports Season (more details below).
We will continue to assess the situation and provide updated guidance in the coming 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 guidance from Special Olympics, Inc. as well as guidelines shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
Special Olympics Oregon program staff recently concluded in-depth conversations with Special Olympics Oregon local program leaders across 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. Further, many sports training facilities around the state remain restricted or closed for use by outside groups such as SOOR. Gaining access again to these training facilities will be another factor for some local programs in their specific return to activities timeline in the future.
There is still significant risk associated with a return to Special Olympics Oregon returning to in-person activities at this time. Cases of community spread of COVID-19 continue to occur in several parts of the state. 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. In addition, many of our volunteers may also fall into higher risk categories for infection or negative outcomes due to infection. While infection rates are decreasing and vaccine distribution has begun in earnest, we are still several weeks away until everyone will become eligible for the vaccine in Oregon. The good news is that our athletes ARE eligible now.
Individuals with ID/D are now eligible to get the vaccine in Oregon. Special Olympics encourages everyone who has access to the COVID-19 vaccine, to get vaccinated. The vaccine will help protect you from getting COVID-19. If you still get infected after you get vaccinated, the vaccine works to prevent serious illness. By getting vaccinated, you also help protect people around you. People with intellectual disabilities are almost 6 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the general population. The vaccine helps to reduce the risk of serious disease and death. This information is not meant to be complete, exhaustive, or a substitute for medical professional advice or OHA and CDC guidance and is being made available in the context of the public health emergency related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
For more vaccine-related resources, please see resources on the right-hand side of this page.
VIRTUAL SPORTS & WELLNESS PROGRAMMING – 2021 WINTER & SUMMER SEASONS
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.
- SOOR ACTIVE – Special Olympics Oregon launched this at-home wellness community back in April 2020 and it has grown to more than 1,100 members. SOOR ACTIVE provides on-going virtual health education, wellness, sport, fitness and social experiences. We will be launching another Fitness Challenge through SOOR Active in the Spring of 2021. Stay tuned for more details.
- 2021 WINTER VIRTUAL SPORTS SEASON - Special Olympics Oregon is currently offering a SOOR 2021 Winter Virtual Games featuring opportunities for athletes to train and compete in Athletics (Track & Field), Basketball Skills, Fitness as Sport and Esports. More than 300 participants have been assigned to virtual coaches with training starting in late January 2021. The season will continue through 2021 SOOR Winter Virtual Games Celebration Week which is scheduled for March 29 – April 2, 2021. For the most updated schedule of events, go to www.soor.org/wintervirtualgames
- 2021 SUMMER VIRTUAL SPORTS SEASON – Special Olympics Oregon will offer 2021 Special Olympics Oregon Summer Virtual Games which will feature five sports for athletes to train and compete in Athletics (Track & Field), Fitness as Sport, Golf, Soccer & Esports. Athletes may sign up to participate in up to two (2) of these virtual sports. Athletes will be assigned coaches in late May and training is scheduled to begin by early June. Games Celebration Week will conclude at the end of July 2021. Registration material will be distributed by late April 2021.
More detailed information about how to sign up for the 2021 SOOR Summer Virtual Sports Season will be shared in April 2021. In fact, SOOR will again 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 our SOOR Virtual Sports Seasons 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, and in most cases, 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.
- SOOR ESPORTS presented by PlayStation – Special Olympics Oregon introduced SOOR Esports presented by PlayStation as another way for athletes and Unified partners to engage in meaningful social interaction through on-line skills training and competition. To date, more than 150 players have participated in Unified Rocket League training and competitions. Esports will continue year-round and will be included in the 2021 SOOR Summer Virtual Games.
- UNIFIED CHAMPION SCHOOLS (UCS)- 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 continues for students around state.
- SPECIAL OLYMPICS VIRTUAL YOUTH GAMES, PRESENTED BY NIKE – NIKE, Inc., and Special Olympics Oregon are teaming up to host the Special Olympics Oregon Virtual Youth Games in early May. This first-ever virtual Youth Games event is focused on empowering kids to play and will introduce the basics of popular sports and other fitness activities. Young people with intellectual disabilities ages 6 to 18 will be engaged with their families through on-demand video content which includes skills demonstrations, interactive sessions with Nike employees, and activities to enjoy from the safety of home. Each participant will receive a Play Bag that will include items that they can use while accessing the video content.
COMMUNICATION & NEXT STEPS
Our response to this outbreak is a dynamic situation. For now, we simply do not have enough information to confirm beyond what has been shared above but we are hopeful to be turning a corner towards a phased return to play.
The direct conversations with local program and school-based program leaders around the state along with input from our Board of Directors have been very important in helping us shape these plans. The SOOR Return to Activities Advisory Task Force will review and provide recommendations and support for future phased return to SOOR in-person return to play and other gatherings. Updates regarding this phased approach will be shared in the coming weeks.
Special Olympics Oregon will conduct Virtual Town Hall Meetings during Spring 2020 to share important updates about the organization and to provide latest information about Return to Activities. Dates and times 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.