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Home Government High School Sports Hot Potato Handed to Local Department of Health

High School Sports Hot Potato Handed to Local Department of Health

Rye Garnet football 2021

(PHOTO: Will they get to play?)

It appears the high school “high risk” sports hot potato has been handed to the local Westchester County Department of Health (DOH). It seems an affirmative decision is imminent from the local DOH allowing high risk sports including football, wrestling, ice hockey, rugby, basketball, contact lacrosse, volleyball, martial arts, and competitive cheer/dance.

But this is the pandemic and politics mixing, so check back often…

On Wednesday, the various county executives from the Hudson Valley, including our our Rye guy and Westchester boss George Latimer, said they supported the return to sports. “I stand with my fellow Hudson Valley County Executives in support of sports resuming in schools,’ said Latimer.

“To be clear, there will be protective protocols in place, and these additional precautions are to protect the athletes. But, I am in favor of providing our children with some normalcy so that they can begin to heal from this horrific pandemic. The resumption of sports will be important for the continued development and mental well-being of our young people – we must never forget them in the decisions we make.”

But – at the same time – the State and Latimer himself have made perfectly clear that nothing happens until the approval from the local county DOH.

The exact same thing from the Executive Committee of Section One, Inc., of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA). The group also expressed support for the return to high risk sports, saying “the Committee voted to approve the authorization of “high-risk” sports beginning February 1st, pending authorization from local county departments of health.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

If you want to read more of the tea leaves on this, please find the Section One and the Hudson Valley county executives statements just below:

Section One Executive Committee supports the authorization of “high-risk” sports

HARRISON, N.Y. — On Wednesday, January 27, 2021, the Executive Committee of Section One, Inc., of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) convened for the second time this week to continue their discussion around the possible authorization of “high-risk” sports.

On January 22, 2021, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) released Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. This guidance states: “Effective February 1, 2021, participants in higher risk sports and recreation activities may partake in individual or distanced group training and organized no/low contact group training and, further, may partake in other types of play, including competition and tournament, only as permitted by the respective local health authorities (i.e., county health departments).”

On behalf of the student-athletes, coaches and communities within Section One, a formal request was submitted to the Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester County Executives and Commissioners of Health. This request advocated for the authorization of “high risk” sports effective February 1st. In response to the updated NYSDOH guidance, the Section One Executive Committee met Monday, January 25th to discuss and review the necessary steps toward obtaining authorization of “high-risk” sports. The importance of gathering concrete data and input from stakeholders quickly became identified as a top priority.

In collaboration with the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents (LHCSS), data was collected regarding the level of support for “high-risk” sports. At the January 27th Section One Executive Committee meeting, the Committee voted to approve the authorization of “high-risk” sports beginning February 1st, pending authorization from local county departments of health.

Through weeks of preparation for the hopeful authorization of “high-risk” sports, two emerging themes evolved. The majority of Athletic Directors reported wanting to minimize the impact on the spring season and to limit any overlap between seasons. The Section One COVID Task Force identified these themes through discussion and planning with Athletic Directors and Sport Chairs.

As a result, the Section One Executive Committee approved the following condensed season calendar inclusive of regionalized championship events for the “high-risk” winter season, where permissible.

  • “High-Risk” Winter Season: February 1st – March 14th
  • Fall Season II: March 8th – April 25th
  • Spring: April 19th – June 13th

“This is an exciting step toward some sense of normalcy for all student-athletes in Section One. We acknowledge and value the benefits that school-based sports bring to the overall educational experience”, said Section One Executive Director Todd Santabarbara. “We will be focused on supporting our student-athletes and their safe participation in these sports”.

As always, local school districts can choose not to participate in some or all sport offerings and/or may reposition sports outside of their defined season to meet the needs of their districts.

In an effort to provide a safe and sustainable experience for our student-athletes, the Executive Committee also determined that no spectators will be permitted at indoor “high-risk” sporting events. Recognizing the importance of the sports experience for our athletes and their families, each school will have the ability to designate one senior night, per sport, where two spectators per home player will be permitted. “High-risk” outdoor sporting events will follow the Section’s previously established guidelines, permitting two spectators per home player.

The Section One Executive Committee remains focused on the health and safety of the student- athletes throughout the Lower Hudson Valley and reserves the right to amend the sports season calendar during this ever-changing climate. In addition, the Committee will continue to monitor any further guidance released from the local county DOH, NYSDOH, NYSPHSAA and NYSED and is committed to adhering to all established protocols and procedures.

The Center for Interscholastic Athletics, a division of Southern Westchester BOCES, serves 82 high schools in Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties, providing support with the organization and management of athletic programs. Section One is part of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Inc., a non-profit organization that provides equitable and safe competition for the students of public, private and parochial member schools.

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Hudson Valley Counties Authorize Higher-Risk
Sports to Proceed, Effective Feb. 1st

County Executives from the seven counties of the Hudson Valley have issued the following joint statement:

The Hudson Valley region has reviewed the updated “Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” dated January 22, 2021 published by New York State. Following discussion with the New York State Association of County Health Officials, regional County Executives, and area public health officials, the Hudson Valley region will authorize “Higher-Risk” sports — both scholastic and non-scholastic — to proceed, effective February 1st, 2021, at the sole discretion of the governing school district or non-scholastic athletic organization. These activities include, but are not limited to, football, wrestling, ice hockey, rugby, basketball, contact lacrosse, volleyball, martial arts, and competitive cheer/dance. In accordance with the state guidance, county health departments in the region will also monitor whether there has been a more-transmissible variant of COVID-19 identified in the area, as well as the percent of local residents that test positive. 

Our region agrees that sports provide many positive impacts for a student’s social, physical, and emotional wellbeing and should be authorized whenever possible. However, COVID-19 transmission rates around the state and throughout the Hudson Valley region demonstrate the critical nature of proper safety precautions to limit the continued spread of the virus in our communities. The following must be taken into consideration as school districts and athletic organizations in the Hudson Valley region make their individual determinations on how to proceed: 

  • School districts and non-scholastic organizations that will be organizing sporting activities are responsible for oversight and compliance with all published state guidance, including relevant safety protocols. All requirements outlined in the January 22, 2021 update to the Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation must be followed by sports teams, recreation activities, and facilities where games and practices are held. League staff, school athletic directors, sports facility directors, coaches, and parents are strongly encouraged to review this guidance and take steps to make sure current team and league operations align with this updated guidance. 
  • Parents, coaches, and athletes should be fully informed and affirmatively consent to the participate in these activities understanding the risk of disease transmission. 
  • Surveillance testing programs may be considered, but are not required as a means to minimize the spread of disease within these activities. 

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said, “It is up to each school district to decide whether to allow their students to participate in high risk sports. The health and safety of students, staff and the local community during this pandemic must be each district’s first priority. What works in one district does not necessarily work in another.”

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “Following an extensive review of New York State’s guidelines and our local COVID-19 data, Dutchess County’s Department of Behavioral Health and I support the resumption of ‘higher-risk’ youth sports – both school-sanctioned and non-scholastic – provided all involved take the necessary precautions. This decision was not reached lightly and came about only after proper deliberation; but we as a county – and as a region – want our children to have the opportunity to play, and we will continue to be vigilant for the sake of all involved. As a coach of my son’s youth soccer team, I see firsthand the benefits participating in athletics provide all children who partake in them, and they can do wonders for kids who have been so greatly impacted by this pandemic. I thank my colleagues around the region for their similarly careful consideration of the risks and benefits associated with this decision, and we look forward to seeing our kids back in action on the field, in the gym and on field soon.”

Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus said, “Many people have contacted my office in support of playing sports.  It is important that this be approached as a region, but that families make their own educated decisions based on their student athlete and other household members.”

Rockland County Executive Ed Day said, “As a 20-year youth sports coach, I understand and fully appreciate the value of sports competition to the well-being of our young people. I am proud that our region was able to craft a plan that enables schools and athletic organizations to let our youth play.” 

Sullivan County Manager Joshua Potosek said, “Having enjoyed and benefitted from athletics programs both as a student and as an adult, I very much appreciate the role high school sports plays in the development of well-rounded, healthy young people. However, we remain in the midst of a serious global pandemic, and it’s critical that our local school districts, athletes and families exercise ongoing diligence and wise judgment in determining when, where and how to mount practices and games. We can’t risk losing the progress we are making in fighting this virus and reopening our schools and communities.”

Dr. Carol Smith, Ulster County Commissioner of Health, said, “In response to NY State DOH’s new guidance on sports, we are committed to working with our schools, parents and student-athletes to ensure all school sports are conducted as safely as possible.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “Since early March Westchester County has grappled with the realities of COVID-19.  While the bodily threats of the virus are clearly documented – the mental impacts of COVID-19 are also equally devastating. Children in particular have suffered significant mental harms due to the isolation of not being in school consistently, not socializing with friends and family, and not partaking in extracurricular actives.  We know there is not a quick fix, but we also know that science has shown us, time and time again, that certain actives can resume with proper precautions put in place.  Today, I stand with my fellow Hudson Valley County Executives in support of sports resuming in schools. To be clear, there will be protective protocols in place, and these additional precautions are to protect the athletes. But, I am in favor of providing our children with some normalcy so that they can begin to heal from this horrific pandemic. The resumption of sports will be important for the continued development and mental well-being of our young people – we must never forget them in the decisions we make.”

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