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State Department of Health gives high-risk sports the go ahead; competition up to local health officials

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(WBNG) -- New guidance from the New York State Health Department says high-risk sports can resume competition February 1, if approved by individual county health departments.

According to the DOH's guidance:

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).

The Health Department recommends counties follow three factors when making a decision.

  • 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.
  • Local ability to monitor and enforce compliance.

This news comes after state legislators urged Governor Cuomo's office to reinstate all sports across New York.

In a statement, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said this about the guidance:

“As a father of several sons who play sports, I understand how tough COVID-19 has been on our student-athletes. Our kids need to be able to play sports, but we need to make sure they do it in a safe way. We will be working with all our school districts in Broome County over the next week
to discuss how we can move forward with having a safe sports season for our kids."

State assemblywoman Donna Lupardo also weighed in.

“I’m glad the Governor heard our requests and issued guidance that will allow student athletes to play once again. Broome County has done a remarkable job quarterbacking our local COVID response team. I trust they will work closely with our school districts to ensure that athletic competitions are safe for players, coaches, officials, and any potential fans."

New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas met with media Friday night and said he isn't sure why this decision was made today, but he is excited for athletes to get the opportunity to play.

"Today I'm only feeling positive," said Zayas. "I think the authorization that we received is certainly a step in the right direction and it benefits students, and it benefits out schools in a tremendous way."

Some of the biggest takeaways from Zayas' meeting are listed below:

  • Even if given approval from local health officials, sections and schools will still have to decide to resume competition.
  • Sections will determine length of sports seasons and if they will overlap.
  • Guidance still allows two fans per athlete, but sections can invoke more restrictions.
  • NYSPHSAA is still planning for spring championships. Winter and fall sport championships have already been canceled.
  • Seven-day practice rule may be waived.
  • If a school closes due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, athletics will be put on pause too.

The NYPSHSAA shared this tweet with the updated guidance.

If you're having difficulty viewing embedded tweets, click here.

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Nicole Menner

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