State guidelines: High-risk high school sports can begin February 1

State guidelines: High-risk high school sports can begin February 1

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - New guidance from New York State Health Department appears to indicate that “high-risk” high school sports could begin on February 1.

Sports like cheerleading, basketball, hockey, and wrestling are all considered “high-risk” by the state.

“Just to get the kids back on the mat, or back on the court or the ice, whatever their sport is, just to give them something to look forward to in the morning as opposed to just going through the motions, I just hope they get the chance,” said South Jefferson Varsity Wrestling Coach Pat Conners.

The updated guidance reads:

“Effective February 1, 2021, participants in higher risk sports and recreation activities may partake in individual or distanced group training and organized no/low-contact group training and, further, may partake in other types of play, including competitions and tournaments, only as permitted by the respective local health authorities (i.e., county health departments).

Local health authorities should consider the following factors in authorizing or continuing to prohibit higher risk sports and recreational activities as, in many areas, these factors may weigh against permitting such activities:

▪ whether there has been a more-transmissible variant of COVID-19 identified in the area,

▪ local rates of COVID-19 transmission or rate of positivity, and

▪ local ability to monitor and enforce compliance.”

As the guidance reads, county health departments will have a say in whether high-risk high school sports can begin. We’re reaching out to officials to learn more.

As of early Friday evening, we did hear from Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche via text message, who called this “awesome news.” Piche says the county will do everything it can to ensure safe competition.

“The community needs something positive to root for,” Piche wrote.

While coaches are thrilled with the news, they’re still cautiously optimistic.

“I know there’s still a lot of hurdles to jump through and boxes to check off, but it’s at least a step in the right direction,” said Jay Shimel, Lafargeville Varsity Boys’ Basketball coach.

If approved to play, there will be some new rules. Each player can only have two spectators and each event can only be at 50% capacity.

Celebratory fist bumps, chest bumps, and dog piles are discouraged. And in general, being closer than six feet is as well. But how will that work for these high risk sports?

“You can’t keep distance during wrestling. With basketball you’ve got someone pushing on you for a rebound the whole game. So it’s tough to say we can do this, we can keep them apart, because the reality is, you can’t,” said Conners.

But they can wear masks. And they can have hope for at least some of a season.

“Games are fun and winning is great, but it’s all about the things in practices, behind closed doors. The comradery, the joking around. They want something to, do some sort of normalcy. That stuff is priceless,” said Shimel.

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