Sen. Kelly Questions DPH’s Guidance Against High School Football

September 8, 2020

LETTER: Sen. Kelly Joins Senate Republican Lawmakers questioning what metrics & benchmarks need to be achieved to allow football season to move forward.


HARTFORD – Today State Senator Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford) joined all 14 members of the Connecticut Senate Republican Caucus in writing to the Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deirdre Gifford to request more information on the department’s recommendation to cancel contact football this fall. The lawmakers are also questioning what public health metrics the agency believes our state needs to reach in order to be comfortable with a football season moving forward.

“We have seen the administration repeatedly issue guidance with no explanation of what metrics they are using to make their decisions,” said Sen. Kelly. “The Governor’s administration owes it to our young athletes to first provide a clear explanation of what led to their decision and to not give up on working toward a solution. The state also needs to clearly identify what benchmarks need to be reached for the agency to be comfortable with football moving forward. The Department of Public Health has an obligation to show a path forward that weighs social risks, health risks, wellness and safety. If it is safe enough for the Governor to stop providing personal protective equipment to home health care workers, why is it not safe for student athletes to continue playing sports that have been underway this summer? The governor and his agencies wield complete power and it’s time they stop keeping the public in the dark. We are asking for the administration to clearly explain their decision-making process, and identify the metrics and benchmarks CT needs to reach to move forward or continue with additional protections.”

In the caucus letter, the 14 CT Senate Republican lawmakers are:

  • Requesting more information about what went into the department’s decision;
  • Questioning what other risks to youth associated with health, wellness and safety and the lack of school activities were weighed and how balance was achieved;
  • Seeking a clear explanation of what benchmarks need to be reached for the agency to be comfortable with students playing football.

Caucus Letter:

September 8, 2020
Dr. Deirdre Gifford
Acting Commissioner
Department of Public Health 410 Capitol Ave. Hartford CT 06134

Dear Dr. Gifford:

We are writing to more fully understand the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) opposition to full-contact football this fall and obtain more information on your decision-making process and the metrics that you believe need to be achieved in order to allow football to be played.

First, obviously your decision to recommend against playing football certainly is the safest decision and provides for zero risk. However, it seems that there should be more required of DPH to assess and weigh the risks and provide a more detailed analysis and recommended solutions. Anyone without medical knowledge could make the safest decision possible and recommend not doing something entirely. But DPH must be held to a higher standard as we navigate through uncharted territory.

Second, there must be specific metrics and rationale that went into the guidance you communicated that led to the recommendation to cancel contact football for the upcoming season. The infection rate in Connecticut has held at 1% or lower over the last several weeks, hospitalizations have been around 60 to 65 people out of 3.5 million residents, and daily deaths have either been well under 10 and some days no deaths have been reported. These improving numbers beg the question what are the metrics in which football could be played? A 0% infection rate is likely never a possibility until a vaccine is available and equally true waiting until there are zero hospitalizations is not realistic. Infection rates are currently at 0.8%. So what rate between 0% and 0.8% do we as a state need to reach for you to consider Connecticut safe enough for football? As the health agency for the state surely you have examined those numbers and you now have an affirmative obligation to disclose those numbers to the parents, children, coaches and the public.

Third, we hope that in developing those metrics you have taken into account the physiological and other health risks that school children are facing during this pandemic. It has been well documented that depression, drug abuse, family violence as well as other adverse health issues have been increasing and are serious issues facing many of our young residents. We expect that your analysis included these concerns, and we would appreciate an explanation, from your point of view, how balance was achieved in your decision-making process when weighing these issues and risks. Please provide such rational.

Fourth, we understand that the Department of Public Health advised the CIAC to make modifications to its policies to enable a football season to move forward, and the CIAC has stated that there is no way to meet the requirements issued by DPH. Please provide us with all guidance that was provided, what was requested of the CIAC, and what could not be met.

And finally, we understand that Representative Vincent Candelora sent you a letter on this issue some time ago and he never received a response. Given the fact that your analysis has already been completed we expect that you can answer all questions presented in his letter. We also share many of those questions and ask that you please provide such answers no later than Thursday, September 10 at noon.

We look forward to your response.


Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano

Senate Republican Leader Pro Tempore Kevin Witkos

Senator Eric Berthel

Senator Gennaro Bizzarro

Senator Dan Champagne

Senator Paul Formica

Senator Kevin Kelly

Senator John A. Kissel

Senator Tony Hwang

Senator George Logan

Senator Henri Martin

Senator Craig Miner

Senator Rob Sampson

Senator Heather Somers


Click to download letter.