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Erie County Department of Health gives high-risk sports the green light to resume

High School Football
Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 25, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Department of Health announced Monday it will allow high-risk sports to resume in the county, following updated guidance from New York State Friday.

Friday the state announced high-risk sports could resume as early as February 1 after given clearance by local health officials.

The following sports are considered high-risk in New York State

  • Football
  • Wrestling
  • Ice hockey
  • Rugby
  • Basketball
  • Contact lacrosse
  • Volleyball
  • Martial arts
  • Competitive cheer
  • Group dance
  • Other sports and recreation activities with similar abilities to maintain physical distance and/or limit exposure to shared equipment prior to such equipment being cleaned and disinfected.

County officials issued clarification Tuesday that this guidance applies not only to high school sports but youth and adult leagues as well.

Erie County officials say the high-risk sports can resume in the county with certain conditions and recommendations in place which can be found below.

  • For moderate- and higher-risk sports, if an athlete or coach has a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, all in-person team or group activities (e.g., practices, scrimmages, games, meetings) will be cancelled for a 10-day period.
  • As with all positive COVID-19 cases in Erie County, contact tracing will be conducted for players and coaching staff, and coaches and teammates identified as close contacts will be placed in quarantine.
  • Travel for games and competitions outside the Western New York (WNY) and Finger Lakes regions is strongly discouraged. All current NYS Travel Advisory guidance for quarantine will apply to athletes, coaches and family members who choose to travel to non-contiguous states.
  • ECDOH gives its permission for sports and recreation activities in Erie County’s orange “microcluster” zones to travel for games and activities within the WNY region (Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties), and to the Finger Lakes region (Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties). This permission will be periodically reviewed to consider regional and county-level rates of transmission and other epidemiological data. In addition, teams from other counties with the WNY and Finger Lakes region may travel into Erie County to participate in games and other activities.
  • Athletes are required to wear an appropriate cloth face covering/mask when not playing or practicing. For children under the age of 18, at a parent’s direction a child may wear a mask when playing or practicing.
  • The use of locker rooms is strongly discouraged. If locker rooms are used, they must be cleaned/disinfected as per NYSDOH guidance.
  • Each team is responsible for screening all athletes and coaches for COVID-19 symptoms for every team event, including practice, scrimmage, or tournaments. Individuals who were exposed to a COVID-19 case or diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 10 days are not allowed to participate in the sport or join spectators.
  • Spectators are limited to two per player. In addition, indoor sports facilities are limited to allow 50% of capacity into their facility.
  • Vaccination status does not alter regulation requirements.
  • All other requirements outlined in the January 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

Those with questions regarding this announcement can contact the ECDOH Division of Environmental Health at (716) 961-6800.

No official information has been released by any other Western New York counties at this time. 7 Eyewitness News has reached out to each county's health department for a statement.

Paul Pettit, Public Health Director - Genesee County, released the following statement on behalf of Genesee and Orleans counties:

“Genesee and Orleans Counties are working with the other local health departments in Western New York and the Finger Lakes. As a region, the local health departments are in support of re-opening high-risk sports but want to make sure it’s done safely and uniformly. As a region, we will be discussing and reviewing the state guidance with our school partners to ensure a consistent, regional approach.”