Dear Leadership of Special Olympics North Carolina,
As a follow-up to our memo on March 6 and due to recent developments tied to the global spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), including a case tied to a U.S. Special Olympics athlete, and the heightened risks for people with intellectual disabilities (due to a larger number having compromised immune systems/health conditions) and the elderly, Special Olympics International (SOI) has taken the position to advise us to suspend all sport training and competition activities and other activations involving our athletes through March 31, 2020.
SOI made this decision after consulting with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and after reviewing the latest guidance from the World Health Organization.
Our action today reinforces N.C. Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement of the state of emergency where all event organizers are asked to cancel any events bringing people of high risk together.
Here is how we ask all local programs to proceed with activities in March:
- All sport practices should be cancelled for the month of March.
- All sport events should be cancelled for the month of March. Specific information on next steps for impacted events planned by SONC will be sent out separately. The status of each event on the website calendar has been updated online.
- Fundraising events may proceed on a case-by-case basis, meaning we will carefully assess the risk in collaboration with local or national health agencies. Special Olympics athlete involvement needs to be reviewed so that the safety of the athletes is not compromised. Athletes who may want to participate in fundraising events should do so after consulting their parents/guardians if they are not their own guardian and all should feel comfortable that it will not jeopardize their health and well-being.
- Unified Champion Schools activities happening within the schools will not be impacted by this decision. All will be determined, rather, by the associated school district and will follow their direction.
- All health and wellness programming are cancelled for the month of March.
At this time, planning for all events after March 31 are continuing as usual. We will of course let you all know if anything changes with this. By the end of March, the situation will be reevaluated by SOI.
In the coming weeks, we will work with leadership across the Special Olympics NC movement and continue to monitor and evaluate developments that may impact athletes, staff and volunteers. We will also work with our communications network to coordinate with local and state health departments, while monitoring traditional media and social media channels.
These actions are necessary to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent transmission of the virus. SOI has prepared a list of frequently asked questions that you can reference on the topic of virus prevention and control.
Should you learn of anybody in your community associated with Special Olympics who may have contracted the virus, please contact me immediately.
Please feel free to share with us any questions you may have.
While this news is incredibly disappointing for all of us, the health and safety of the athletes, volunteers, staff, and partners remains our top priority.
With best regards,
Keith L. Fishburne
Special Olympics North Carolina