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Superintendent message: Resuming high-risk youth sports

February 1, 2021

Dear Parents and Guardians:

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a heightened responsibility on youth sports organizations, coaches, families, and athletes to reduce transmission and to foster a safe environment for children to participate in youth sports. On Friday, January 22, 2021, Governor Cuomo announced he would allow higher risk sports to commence in New York schools effective February 1, 2021 subject to local health department approval. It is important that schools, student athletes, and their parents/guardians carefully consider a variety of factors before making an individual decision.

Schools must follow the New York State Department of Health's INTERIM GUIDANCE FOR SPORTS AND RECREATION DURING THE COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY  and applicable Executive Orders for the conduct of their school sports. Per current State guidance, schools must limit capacity of indoor facilities to no more than 50 percent occupancy. The C C L has decided on no spectators and continued implementation of social distancing, face coverings, and enhanced disinfection protocols.

There is significant risk involved in allowing higher-risk sports to resume. Weighing the risk versus benefit of return to sports is driven by the sport and setting, local disease activity, and individual circumstances, including underlying health conditions that may place the athlete or household contacts at increased risk of severe disease should they contract COVID-19.

Additional areas of concern that require consideration include:

  • the potential spread of COVID-19 variants that may be present in the community;
  • the increased risk of exposure inherent in overnight travel situations;
  • quarantine of the entire team if a teammate tests positive for COVID-19;
  • equity and capacity issues for routine testing;
  • the school's ability to monitor and enforce compliance to state sports and recreation guidance;
  • the appropriate and timely reporting of COVID-19 exposures that occur in sports settings to local health authorities.
Tips for patrons, players, and spectators returning to high-risk youth sports:

  • Families should review and discuss school and league COVID-19 policies as well as CDC recommendations  for youth sports.
  • Always follow safety protocols.
  • Prioritize noncontact activity, including drills maintaining physical or social distancing.
  • If physical distancing can't be maintained, use cloth face coverings or masks as directed in state guidance.
  • Reinforce appropriate hygiene and respiratory etiquette through signage, education, and use of hand washing stations or hand sanitizer.
  • Maintain practice pods in small sizes without mixing athletes.
  • Minimize travel to other communities and regions.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface, as well as drinking fountains. This should be done at least daily or as much as possible.
  • Reduce use of shared equipment and communal spaces, such as locker rooms.
  • Avoid poorly ventilated areas and small spaces. Use fans or open doors and windows when possible.
  • Don't allow athletes to share food and drink. Participants should always use their own water bottles.
Contact sports bring people close together and increase the risk of transmission. 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 curtail the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the athletes must restrict their activity away from sports, minimizing their own risks and reducing community spread. We must work together during these stressful times to ensure that our youth have the opportunity to participate in athletics safely.

Additional resources:

CDC Toolkit for Youth Sports

Sincerely,

Georgia Gonzalez
Superintendent of Schools

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