State Issues Guidelines for Youth Sports

Gordon M. Grant
Senior midfielder Joyce Arbia reaches for the ball in a 2019 field hockey game.

In a bit of good news for student-athletes heading back to school in just a few weeks, low-risk fall sports can be played this fall. Meanwhile, interscholastic high-risk sports, like football and wrestling, can only practice, not compete.

Low-risk fall sports, like tennis, soccer, cross country and field hockey, can begin on September 21, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday. Sports with full physical contact pose a higher risk of transmission spread, he said. Those athletes can practice with no or low contact, but cannot compete against one another until a later date or December 31, he said.

School teams will have to follow State Department of Health guidelines for non-collegiate and non-professional sports. Schools will have to limit capacity of indoor facilities to no more than 50% occupancy and limit spectators to no more than two spectators per player, in addition to implementing the standard social distancing and face coverings rules.

No travel or play will be allowed outside of the school’s region or contiguous regions or counties until at least October 19.

“Again, we are doing this in phases. We want to see what the effect is. We want to see how it works. Schools opening in general is a big question mark. What could the effect be? Fall is a big question mark. Many of the experts are suggesting that there may be a second wave or a recurrence so phasing it will allow us to watch it,” Cuomo siad.

Robert Zayes, the executive director, of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Tweeted after the announcement that he would meet with section executive directors and the association’s COVID task force to review the guidelines.

Also on Monday, Cuomo announced a new record-low COVID-19 test positivity rate of 0.66%. It is the 17th straight day that the infection rate has remained below 1%.

However, in Western New York, there has been a slight uptick. The percentage of positive rates has been above 1% for six days. A five-day average of new cases is 63, up from 34 a week ago. Cuomo said a caution flag has been raised and health officials are looking into. Clusters have been identified; one at a steel plant in Erie County and one at a food processing plant in Chautauqua County.

New cases at two nursing homes were discovered due to state-mandated testing. Pre-screening for surgical procedures and testing of seasonal labor also has added to the rise in cases, the governor said.

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