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Erie County health officials say 'high-risk' high school sports can proceed

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Erie County Health Department officials announced Monday that after reviewing guidance first announced Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, high school sports deemed "higher risk" could proceed, but with certain conditions included.

"High-risk" sports, as defined by state health officials, include wrestling, ice hockey, basketball, contact lacrosse and volleyball. Those sports, Erie County officials say, can proceed with individual and group training, and competitions and tournaments.

But, those officials are urging sports programs to keep their competitions closer to home. The Erie County Department of Health issued the following Monday afternoon:

  • For moderate- and higher-risk sports, if an athlete or coach has a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, all in-person team or group activities (e.g., practices, scrimmages, games, meetings) will be canceled for a 10-day period.
    • As with all positive COVID-19 cases in Erie County, contact tracing will be conducted for players and coaching staff, and coaches and teammates identified as close contacts will be placed in quarantine.
  • Travel for games and competitions outside the Western New York (WNY) and Finger Lakes regions is strongly discouraged. All current NYS Travel Advisory guidance for quarantine will apply to athletes, coaches and family members who choose to travel to non-contiguous states.  
  • ECDOH gives its permission for sports and recreation activities in Erie County’s orange “microcluster” zones to travel for games and activities within the WNY region (Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties), and to the Finger Lakes region (Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties). This permission will be periodically reviewed to consider regional and county-level rates of transmission and other epidemiological data. In addition, teams from other counties with the WNY and Finger Lakes region may travel into Erie County to participate in games and other activities.
  • Athletes are required to wear an appropriate cloth face covering/mask when not playing or practicing. For children under the age of 18, at a parent’s direction a child may wear a mask when playing or practicing.
  • The use of locker rooms is strongly discouraged. If locker rooms are used, they must be cleaned/disinfected as per NYSDOH guidance.
  • Each team is responsible for screening all athletes and coaches for COVID-19 symptoms for every team event, including practice, scrimmage, or tournaments. Individuals who were exposed to a COVID-19 case or diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 10 days are not allowed to participate in the sport or join spectators.
  • Spectators are limited to two per player. In addition, indoor sports facilities are limited to allow 50% of capacity into their facility.
  • Vaccination status does not alter regulation requirements.
  • All other requirements outlined in the January 2021 update to the Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation must be followed by sports teams, recreation activities, and facilities where games and practices are held. League staff, school athletic directors, sports facility directors, coaches and parents are strongly encouraged to review this guidance and take steps to make sure current team and league operations align with this updated guidance.

New York State's high school football season, which was postponed in the fall semester, is now tentatively set to begin in March. Volleyball was also moved from a traditional fall season to early spring. State championships, though, have been canceled.
The guidelines announced by Erie County health officials also apply to youth and adult sports leagues.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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