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Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak responds to a question during a news conference at the Grant Sawyer State Building in Las Vegas Sept. 29, 2020. The governor provided updates on Nevada's COVID-19 response efforts and adjustments to current capacity limits on gatherings. The face mask is themed after the Vegas Golden Knights' mascot Chance the Golden Gila Monster. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun, pool)

It’s time to play ball again.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday that he is allowing a return of certain youth and adult recreational sports, albeit with some safety precautions in place. Recreational sports deemed non-contact or minimal contact — such as softball, baseball, soccer, kickball, volleyball, golf, track and field, cross country, swimming, diving and gymnastics — can resume play Saturday. Tournaments can begin Oct. 24.

The directive comes with a caveat: Leagues, associations or venues must submit a sports safety plan to the Nevada Department of Business and Industry for approval. Those involved in approved recreational sports must also abide by certain safety protocols, such as screenings for athletes, coaches and staff; limited equipment sharing; strong requirements for disinfecting equipment; and an agreement to cooperate with health authorities on contact tracing if necessary.

“We ask people — the players and spectators — to depart immediately after the games, not stay for socialization with other individuals,” he said.

Sisolak said full-contact sports that remain prohibited include but are not limited to football, rugby, wrestling, boxing, hockey, lacrosse, group cheer and dance, basketball, water polo and martial arts. Those activities can only occur on a limited basis for athletic conditioning, during which time athletes may not come into contact with other players.

The new directive and related guidance does not pertain to professional or collegiate sports. Additionally, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association maintains governance over high school sports. The organization previously postponed fall high school sports.

The governor said his office will be working with the NIAA and school districts to address a number of questions surrounding high school sports, such as: Would it lead to increased COVID-19 exposure for educators and students? Can districts support and manage sports during a time when budgets are tight? How would sports work in districts operating under distance learning?

“We'll also be working to ensure that we're doing everything possible to try to get more kids back in the classroom as safely as possible,” he said. “We are trusting and counting on parents, players and officials to make this program a success. Coaches are role models. Wear a mask.”

The announcement comes days after the governor raised the limit on public gatherings from 50 to 250 people — and even more for larger venues — essentially allowing conventions, religious services and other events with live audiences to resume under certain conditions. He also allowed playgrounds to reopen as well as in-person house showings to begin again.

Sisolak’s green light for certain recreational sports continues that trend. But he highlighted a few requirements underlying the return to play. For instance, players, coaches, referees and other officials will receive a contactless temperature screening before a sporting event, he said. Participants and spectators also must respond to a COVID-19 screening survey upon arrival.

If a coach, manager or player tests positive for the virus, the team must quarantine and cancel any games or events for 14 days. The governor also recommended that anyone who previously tested positive for COVID-19 receive medical clearance from a doctor before playing again.

Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, who is involved in local youth sports, praised the governor’s decision.

“We wish to thank Governor Sisolak for allowing games to resume,” Brown, a former collegiate and professional baseball player, said in a statement. “From our youngest athletes to our senior softball players, playing sports will be extremely beneficial to their physical and mental well-being.”

Sisolak’s announcement about recreational sports coincides with the news that President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, have tested positive for the coronavirus. The governor said he wishes the president and first lady a speedy and safe recovery, but he used the moment to call for greater adherence to risk mitigation strategies.

“Large gatherings — where you have, whether it's 300 people at a dinner for a charity event not wearing masks, not following the rules, or 4,000 or 5000 people in a manufacturing facility not wearing masks, not following the rules — don't help,” he said. “They expose more individuals to the virus, which is problematic. And it's incumbent upon our businesses to do everything they can to ensure that we keep people as safe as we possibly can.”

Last month, the president held a campaign rally inside a Henderson warehouse, where an estimated 5,600 people gathered. Many did not wear face masks or social distance.

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