Lisa McCafferty, Tioga County Public Health officer and Martha Sauerbrey, Tioga County Legislative chair have communicated with Tioga County School Districts regarding the latest guidance released by New York State to resume high-risk youth sports in Tioga County.
Last week Governor Cuomo announced that he would allow higher risk sports to commence in New York schools starting on Feb. 1, 2021 however, this is subject to approval from local health departments.
There is significant risk involved in allowing higher-risk sports to resume and these factors must be weighed before allowing the return of sports: 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.
Currently, Tioga County is seeing on average at least 20 new COVID-19 cases every day, with some cases linked to our schools. When a positive case has attended school during their infectious period, typically the entire classroom, bus and staff members they’ve come in contact with are all quarantined for at least 10 days. If a positive case is on a sports team, the same protocols will be followed.
Contact sports bring people together and will increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19. If schools, athletes and their parents / guardians choose to return to high-risk sports, they must do so in a safe manner and give considerable thought to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
A variety of factors must be considered before making an individual decision to return to sports including underlying health conditions that may place the athlete or household contacts at increased risk of severe illness. Athletes should also restrict their activity away from sports, minimizing their own risks and reducing community spread. Ultimately the decision falls on the parents / guardians to decide whether they will allow their children to participate in given sports or activities.
Per New York State guidelines, should indoor sports resume, schools must limit capacity of indoor facilities to no more than 50 percent occupancy. School districts shall adhere to the “Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency” that is available online at www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/SportsAndRecreationMasterGuidance.pdf.
Additionally, all Tioga County schools have agreed to ensure full compliance with the Interscholastic Athletic Conference (IAC) reopening plan and fully cooperate with Tioga County Public Health. No spectators will be permitted at sporting events. Participants must also adhere to social distancing, face coverings, and enhanced disinfection protocols. School districts may implement more restrictive measures.
Martha Sauerbrey reminds our community that COVID-19 cases continue to rise within the county.
“In order for sporting events to resume in Tioga County, we are going to need everyone to be more vigilant than ever to do their part in keeping our number of new cases down,” stated Chair Sauerbrey.