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Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton on Wednesday said moderate- and higher-risk sports in Niagara County may proceed in accordance with New York state guidelines. Last Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the decision on whether these sports could start back up would be made by each county’s health director.
“Since the governor’s announcement on Friday, I have been in contact with my colleagues in the other Western New York counties, school superintendents, athletic directors, parents, state health department officials, Section VI officials and so many more to make sure everyone had a clear understanding of the guidelines and what to expect should we move forward with these sports,” Stapleton said. “Based on those discussions, I am confident everyone understands the risks involved and the steps that need to be taken to mitigate that risk. And with that, I am giving approval for these sports to move forward.”
Cuomo also announced the New York state interim guidelines for sports and recreation. These revisions also allow local health departments to authorize non-professional and non-collegiate sports, such as wrestling, ice hockey, basketball, contact lacrosse, and volleyball, to proceed with individual and group training, competitions, and tournaments, effective Feb. 1. Updates were also made to low- and moderate-risk sports and recreation activities.
The NCDOH said, “All responsible parties (schools, businesses, leagues, organizations) 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 sports and recreation activities.”
Per current state guidance, indoor facilities must limit their capacity to no more than 50% occupancy and a maximum of two spectators per player. In addition, protocols to ensure social distancing, use of face coverings, and enhanced disinfection protocols must be implemented.
For moderate- and higher-risk sports, if an athlete, coach or referee receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, all in-person team or group activities (e.g. practices, scrimmages, games, meetings) will likely result in a 10-day suspension to mitigate the spread of infection. Situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
NCDOH added, “Participating in higher-risk sports presents significant risks. The level of risk presented by a 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. Individual schools and businesses, student and adult athletes, and parents/guardians must carefully consider a variety of factors before making an individual decision to participate.”
To allow continuation of higher-risk sport and recreational activities, local health authorities will continue to consider many factors, including but not limited to the following:
√ Whether there is a more transmissible variant of COVID-19 identified in the area;
√ Local rates of COVID-19 transmission or rate of positivity; and
√ Local ability to monitor and enforce compliance.
NCDOH said, “Contact sports bring people close together and increase the risk of transmission. If persons choose to return to high-risk sports, they must follow guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Athletes should be mindful of their activity outside of sports to minimize risk and reduce community spread. The New York state summary guidelines are posted at forward.ny.gov. All responsible parties (schools, businesses, leagues, organizations) must read and affirm the state’s detailed guidelines and develop a safety plan.”