State to Allow ‘Low-Risk’ School Sports to Return Sept. 21

Low-risk high school and youth sports will be allowed to proceed as planned with practices and games starting Sept. 21 but full-contact sports will remain limited to the practice field, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Sports such as tennis, soccer, cross country, field hockey and swimming may resume competitions in four weeks as long as schools follow guidelines issued by the Department of Health, Cuomo said during a Monday morning briefing. Resumption of play for those sports will be permitted in all regions of the state, he said.

However, football, ice hockey, wrestling and rugby are among the sports that will not see game competition until at least Oct. 19.

Cuomo said as schools are ready to reopen to a wide variety of schedules and configurations around the state, officials want to be prudent about the sports that will be allowed to move forward and those that must remain on the sidelines for now.

“The fall is a big question mark,” Cuomo said. “Many of the experts are suggesting there may be a second wave or recurrence, so phasing (sports) will allow us to watch it.”

In addition, teams will be prohibited from leaving their region to play, he said. The state’s defined 10 regions are the same as those used to track transmission rates around the state during the reopening plans, the governor said.

About a month ago, officers from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) agreed to delay the start date of the Fall 2020 sports season until at least Sept. 21. They also decided to cancel all fall regional and state championships. The decision came at the recommendation of the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force.

The task force recommended that if any sport could not be played, there would be plans for a condensed season during the second half of the upcoming school year. For example, the tentative condensed schedule showed that football would be played from Mar. 1 to May 8, while wrestling and ice hockey could have their season played between Jan. 4 and Mar. 13.

The announcement of the types of sports that will be played in competition comes a day after the state’s lowest recorded infection rate. The Department of Health’s statistics revealed that test results released statewide from Sunday showed a 0.66 percent transmission, or 408 positives from 62,031 tests administered. It marked 17 straight days where the statewide rate has been below 1 percent.

On Sunday, every region was between 0.1 percent (North County) and 0.8 percent (Mid-Hudson) except for Western New York, were there have been six consecutive days with at least a 1 percent positivity rate. Cuomo said the Western New York spike was attributed to several clusters, including a steel plant in Erie County, a food processing factory in Chautauqua County and multiple cases in two nursing homes.

Throughout the state, hospitalizations fell to 482 and there were seven deaths on Sunday. The three-day rolling average of deaths statewide was five.

Overall, Cuomo said he was pleased with how the vast majority of New Yorkers have been handling the pandemic and took the opportunity to fire a shot at the federal government. He repeated arguments that the Trump administration failed to realize that travelers were bringing the virus to Kennedy and Newark airports from Europe, which “ambushed” the metropolitan area.

“We’ve been doing a great job in keeping control of the virus,” he said. “Congratulations to the people of New York. It wasn’t rocket science; it just took the nation a long time to understand it. We’re dealing with a virus. It’s a question of science, not politics.”

In Westchester, there were 477 active cases reported through Sunday and about 30 hospitalizations, said County Executive George Latimer. Fatalities in the county were up to 1,449, but between July 24 and Aug. 24, there had been just six COVID-19-reated deaths, he said.

Putnam County’s weekly update showed there are 11 active COVID-19 cases and no hospitalizations. The death toll remains at 63.

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