BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Department of Health says the high school wrestling season should be postponed until later in the year.
The season started on Monday for Section VI schools in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Niagara and Orleans counties.
During the county's weekly update Tuesday, Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein fielded questions regarding why the county is continuing to recommend the season be delayed when other counties in Section VI have allowed high school wrestling to resume.
Dr. Burstein said several factors went into the recommendation.
First, she said Erie County's COVID-19 transmission rates are still too high to allow wrestling to pick back up.
"As our numbers are decreasing and our rates are decreasing," Dr. Burstein said. "We can't wait to get below that 100 cases per 100,000 population over a seven-day period because then we will be in a lower transmission category."
Dr. Burstein went on to say once the county's transmission is below the 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period threshold, the county would reassess allowing wrestling to resume.
The second factor that the county is weighing is the nature of the sport itself.
Dr. Burstein said Tuesday, even if all of the equipment and surfaces were sanitized to prevent skin-to-skin transmission of COVID-19, the fact that wrestling is a close-contact sport in which wearing a mask is ineffective makes it a very high-risk sport where spreading COVID-19 is concerned.
But Burstein offered some words of encouragement to families who are anxious for their kids to get back on the mats.
"There is hope. If everybody gets vaccinated, we continue to social distance, and our numbers and our rates continue to decrease, I think we can reassess," said Dr. Burstein. "But we have to get there first."
Currently, only students 16 and older are eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine.