USA Water Polo Requests Governor Newsom Reclassify WP To Low Risk In California

USA Water Polo CEO Chris Ramsey sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, asking that he reclassify water polo from “high risk” to “low risk” for COVID-19 transmission in the state.

Ramsey says that over 65% of the organization’s membership are based in California, along with the majority of U.S. Olympians. He points to scientific data indicating that in the chlorinated environment in which the sport is played, the risk of COVID-19 transference is low.

“In fact, since water polo is played in a highly chlorinated environment (which kills the COVID-19 virus), when combined with proper on-deck protocols, water polo is safe and represents an extremely low risk of transmission,” Ramsey said.

“Water polo is played in a chlorinated environment, and virtually all California swimming pool courses are located outdoors. When playing water polo, faces and bodies are frequently submerged, immediately killing the virus. The positive effects of chlorine are not just limited to the water. Chlorine gas hovers above the water’s surface acting as an additional disinfectant.

“The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that there is NO evidence of COVID-19 transmission through swimming pools, while the World Health Organization (WHO) has also identified only a limited risk of contamination and illness at well-managed facilities like the ones in California.”

While California has been restricted, several other states have been able to continue playing at the high school and club level. The only real water polo action available to go on in California is in the NCAA, where UCLA, Stanford, USC and Cal are playing “without evidence of their actions leading to higher infection rates.”

Ramsey also points to the toll of not being able to play will have on the mental health of the sport’s youth as a reason to reclassify water polo.

“Please step forward and encourage your health officials to follow the science and let our young people back in chlorinated water to pursue their dreams,” Ramsey said. “Organizations like ‘Let Them Play Water Polo’ also recognize the need and urgency for California to act. Our state’s water polo players, former water polo players, and their families, will be truly grateful for your action.”

FULL LETTER

The Honorable Governor Gavin Newsom,

We are writing to formally request that the State of California reclassify current COVID-19 restrictions regarding participation in water polo in the state of California. More than 65% of USA Water Polo’s membership live and play in California, as well as most of the sport’s Olympians. Our view, based on scientific data, is that water polo has been inaccurately classified as a “high risk of transmission” sport. In fact, since water polo is played in a highly chlorinated environment (which kills the COVID-19 virus), when combined with proper on-deck protocols, water polo is safe and represents an extremely low risk of transmission. Further, we know that the impact of stopping young people from water polo competition poses a real risk to the mental health and well-being of tens thousands of players across the state during a particularly stressful time.

Water polo is played in a chlorinated environment, and virtually all California swimming pool courses are located outdoors. When playing water polo, faces and bodies are frequently submerged, immediately killing the virus. The positive effects of chlorine are not just limited to the water. Chlorine gas hovers above the water’s surface acting as an additional disinfectant. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that there is NO evidence of COVID-19 transmission through swimming pools, while the World Health Organization (WHO) has also identified only a limited risk of contamination and illness at well-managed facilities like the ones in California.

California has already acknowledged that water polo is safe by allowing NCAA Pac-12 Conference training and competition. Participants include UCLA, USC, California, and Stanford, all of which are playing without evidence of their actions leading to higher infection rates. The CIF is allowing swimming to go forward and can simply apply the same on deck protocols for water polo to ensure an equally safe environment.

High school water polo is taking place elsewhere in the United States while California delays implementation. On the heels of a successful season in Pennsylvania and club events in Utah and Texas with no known COVID-19 transmission, the state of Illinois is launching their high school season next month. Earlier this month, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) elected to remove colored tiers in evaluating the risk of COVID-19 transmission in high school sports and encouraged other sports authorities to do the same. In announcing their decision, the NFHS also noted that outdoor sports show lower prevalence of the disease.

On the international front, Italy was hardest hit by COVID-19’s initial impact. Its oldest technical university, Polytechnic Institute of Turin, issued a 400-page study of 387 sports. The study named water polo as the safest team sport. Similarly, the Spanish Swimming Federation issued a technical paper arguing that “a well-maintained swimming pool is sanitary safe” from COVID-19. The Dutch University Medical center of Utrecht provided further evidence that chlorine inactivated COVID-19. Next week, an Olympic Men’s Water Polo qualification tournament will be held in Rotterdam.

There are significant risks to continuing the ban on scholastic and club water polo. The mental health balance water polo provides to thousands of young athletes throughout California is a vital part of their routine that has been missing for far too long. Protocols are now in place to train and compete safely. Science clearly identifies a much lower risk to playing water polo than many other basic activities that are currently allowed.

As the governing body for water polo in America, USA Water Polo and its 500+ clubs are ready to return to play in a scientifically safe and responsible way. The sport will fill a critical void for many during this pandemic and should be allowed to continue in all certified venues. We are delighted that the Pac-12 is playing water polo. They are leaders at demonstrating the value of return-to-play. Their example should be embraced by the State of California, not considered an exception to the rules.

California has a proud legacy in the sport of water polo, which is celebrated worldwide. USA Water Polo is also poised to host National Junior Olympics in California this summer, which is the world’s largest water polo tournament and results in millions of dollars in economic activity for the state. With the Tokyo Olympic Games less than six months away, our Olympic Water Polo teams are at a disadvantage compared to their competitors around the world because of California’s embargo on competition. One size does not fit all when applying public health guidelines to water polo—a sport played in an environment hostile to the COVID-19 virus.

Governor Newsom, the water polo community needs your leadership during this unprecedented time. Please step forward and encourage your health officials to follow the science and let our young people back in chlorinated water to pursue their dreams. Organizations like “Let Them Play Water Polo” also recognize the need and urgency for California to act. Our state’s water polo players, former water polo players, and their families, will be truly grateful for your action.

Sincerely,

Christopher Ramsey
Chief Executive Officer

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Hank
21 days ago

Newsom is not an Honorable governor.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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