Little League World Series was able to complete without positive COVID tests on players, coaches and staff, according to Little League officials.
That success goes against the increasing transmissions of COVID cases in Lycoming County caused by the county’s breach of the “high” Series of housing transfers on August 22nd.
That success is attributed to the creation of a Pandemic Response Advisory Committee, which has sought input from infectious disease experts, according to Brian McClintock, Senior Director of Communications at Little League International.
“It is the product of months of research and planning” said McClintock. “Our main job was to ensure the health and safety of the players who might be at risk due to a lack of vaccinations and the volunteers who come and give us our time.”
A big part of that process, according to Daniel Velte, Senior Operations Executive at Little League International, was limiting contact between the players and viewers, including their families.
Usually, players could bypass the complex identified by their hats and indicators, Velte said. This year, however, they were much more restricted on “Pods”, which means that the players mostly mingled with their teams.
Velte said that instead of mingling with other teams in indoor recreational areas, this year the players interacted with those of other teams in open air areas. They also had the opportunity to watch other teams play outside.
“We had commitment from the teams. Everyone was determined to follow the plan and stay in team pods. “ said Velte. “Having the teams’ commitment and understanding what we were trying to achieve was really helpful.”
That commitment went up to two teams who continued to isolate themselves between their regional tournament and the World Series, Velte said.
Part of that work, however, was tighter planning – making sure of timing with the teams lined up to make sure they had a lot of fun during the fun activities, but were also able to stay in the team pods, like that McClintock.
Velte said some of the changes also affected families.
“We were used to sweeping mothers who hugged children when they left the stadium.” said Velte.
“The sacrifices that families have made to limit contact with the players have been harsh, but we are grateful that they did so from a public health perspective.”
Daniel Lueders, a UPMC sports medic and chairman of the Pandemic Response Advisory Committee, said all volunteers who came in contact with the players had been vaccinated. In addition, all other World Series employees who were not vaccinated ran rapid antigen tests every morning of the World Series – each with negative results.
“Volunteers give their time and energy to make this as successful as it is.” Lüders said.
World Series players and unvaccinated staff were tested daily through Friday, and the final results of those tests came back on Friday.
According to Velte, Little League staff did not conduct any further testing as the results would not have been returned in time to make any decisions about the World Series.
Dr. Rutul Dalal, medical director of infectious diseases at UPMC in north central Pennsylvania, said the hospital is happy to see the World Series return to Williamsport, also in ways other than normally expected.
“It took a lot of preparation, planning and collaboration to keep everyone safe, and Little League rose to the challenge.” said Dalal. “We look forward to seeing the world again at Williamsport in 2022.”
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