Announcement Concerning High Risk Sports:
Governor Cuomo recently announced that effective February 1, 2021, participants in higher-risk sports may participate in individual or distanced group training and organized no/low-contact group training and other types of play, including competitions and tournaments, if permitted by local health authorities.
More than a dozen counties in the capital region, north country and mohawk valley have consulted with subject matter experts from local health departments (LHDs), healthcare providers, and healthcare facilities to unify their approach and allow K-12 sponsored higher-risk school sports to resume. The resumption of these activities does not mean that they are safe or without risk. Districts/schools must meet sport-specific minimum requirements and communities must meet COVID-19 metrics. Sports-related travel outside these regions is strongly discouraged.
The minimum requirements include:
• Each school district’s Board of Education or non-public school’s Board of Directors (or other appropriate person/entity) must approve the district/school’s participation in each specific higher-risk sport.
• Each school superintendent/school leader must oversee the creation of a sport-specific preparedness plan, to be approved by the district/school’s medical director.
• Each parent/guardian must sign an informed consent.
• Each student-athlete must have medical clearance from their healthcare provider.
• Each parent/guardian, student-athlete, and school official must agree to fully cooperate with case investigations and contact elicitation and to adhere to isolation and quarantine orders.
• Each district/school must establish a confidential phone number and email address to allow student-athletes, parents, or others to report concerns.
The community COVID-19 metrics include:
• The 7-day rolling average percent positivity in the county, as calculated by NYSDOH, must be at or below 4.0%. If the 7-day rolling average percent positivity is above 4.0%, then activities must be restricted to individual or distanced group training or organized no/low-contact group training.
• The region’s hospital capacity (percent of hospital beds available) must be above 15%, as calculated by NYSDOH.
• The region’s rate of hospital admissions must not be unacceptably high or require additional interventions to control the rate of growth, as determined by NYSDOH.
• The absence of other emerging epidemiological data, information or factors as determined or identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), or Schoharie County Department of Health that impact COVID-19 control or mitigation.
Each county will conduct unannounced audits regarding adherence to the requirements. Failure to comply will result in approval for the given district’s/school’s team being rescinded.
While the Governor’s announcement created a road for higher-risk sports to occur, this unified approach installs the guardrails, off-ramps and stop signs that are needed for safety on all roads. Districts/schools must choose to put different vehicles on the road (by approving specific higher-risk sports) and parents/guardians must choose whether to get in the vehicle (by allowing their child to participate).
This approach is consistent with CDC guidance for school decision-makers, which recommends that high-contact school athletic activities be postponed during periods with substantial or high levels of COVID-19 transmission in the community.