No, CDC guidance on canceling ‘high-risk’ sports and activities is not new

The CDC recommended that high-risk sports and activities should be canceled or held virtually in areas with high community spread as early as May 2021.
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As information continues to emerge about COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has regularly updated its guidance on reducing the spread of the virus. 

The CDC most recently updated its guidance for prevention in K-12 schools on Jan. 13, 2022. In a summary of its recent changes, the CDC said it clarified schools may allow students ages 12 to 17 who have completed their primary vaccine series but have not yet received all eligible booster doses to go without quarantining if they are exposed to COVID-19.

But several news outlets are also claiming the CDC updated its guidance for activities like sports. A report from CNN shared via Twitter on Monday highlighted CDC guidance for schools, including the public health agency’s recommendation that “high-risk sports and extracurricular activities” such as football or band should be canceled or held virtually in areas with high community spread of COVID-19 unless all participants are fully vaccinated. 

“This was sort of buried in the school guidance that got updated a week or two ago, and a lot of people missed this,” CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen said of the guidance.

Other news outlets apart from CNN have also reported that the CDC guidance for high-risk sports and activities was part of the agency’s most recent update. 

THE QUESTION

Is the CDC guidance on canceling “high-risk” sports and extracurricular activities new? 

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the CDC guidance on canceling high-risk sports and extracurricular activities in areas with high community spread is not new. The recommendation has existed since at least May 2021, and the CDC added an update several months later in August to clarify that high-risk sports and activities should be canceled or held virtually "unless all participants are fully vaccinated."

WHAT WE FOUND

An archived web page from the CDC that was last updated on May 15, 2021 includes the following guidance: “High-risk sports include those that cannot be done outdoors or with masks. Testing twice per week in areas of low, moderate, and substantial community transmission is recommended for participation in these sports. High-risk sports should be virtual or canceled in areas of high community transmission.” 

The CDC defines high-risk extracurricular activities as those in which increased exhalation occurs, such as band, those that involve singing or shouting, or exercise – especially when conducted indoors. Its examples of high-risk sports include football and wrestling.

Several months later, on Aug. 5, 2021, the CDC updated its guidance to say that high-risk sports and activities should be canceled or held virtually "unless all participants are fully vaccinated." Many school districts and governments nationwide also updated their guidance to include this language following the CDC's change.

The current language used by the CDC as of Jan. 18, 2022 matches the language used in the Aug. 5, 2021 guidance.

In August 2021, Hunter College Campus Schools in New York City announced a vaccine mandate for students and staff participating in high-risk sports during the 2021-2022 school year. The school district said the mandate was in alignment with recent guidance from both New York state and the CDC, “which state that high-risk sports and extracurricular activities should be virtual or canceled in areas of high community transmission unless all participants are fully vaccinated.”

The guidance about canceling high-risk sports and activities was included in the New York State Department of Education’s “Health and Safety Guide for the 2021-2022 School Year,” which was published in August 2021.

Nearly one month later in September 2021, the Guilderland Center School District in New York state said it passed a resolution “to adopt the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines requiring student-athletes participating in all high-risk sports to be vaccinated” due to high levels of community spread.

Public health officials in Missouri also updated guidance for sports during the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2021. Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services (PHHS) wrote in its COVID-19 screening section of the document that high-risk sports or activities should be canceled or held virtually in areas of high transmission unless everyone is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

So we can VERIFY that the CDC guidance on high-risk sports and activities in areas with high community spread of COVID-19 is not new. CDC guidance from 2021, along with guidance and policies from school districts and public health agencies, show the CDC has been using this exact wording for months.

More from VERIFY: No, the CDC director did not say 75% of all COVID-19 deaths were in people with four comorbidities

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