High-risk sports such as basketball, wrestling and cheerleading can resume, days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) gave local health commissioners the green light to allow these sports to restart.
Suffolk County has developed a sports plan in connection with Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and Section XI Athletics.
“We know how important sports are in our kids’ lives,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a Jan. 25 press conference announcing the resumption of high-risk sports. “If we can get kids back on the field in as safe a way as possible, we know it’ll bring great benefits.”
As a part of the sports program, all student-athletes will have to take weekly tests for the COVID-19 virus. The county will provide free, rapid tests to school districts, which school nurses will administer.
“Testing is critical,” Bellone said.
New York State is expected to provide an initial allocation of 20,00 rapid tests and will look to provide more tests for schools to use each week.
Positive tests will result in a 10-day quarantine. Each coach is required to supply information to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services for an extensive contact tracing investigation.
The county issued several guidelines, including taking temperatures of players and coaches before practices and games, encouraging mask wearing whenever possible, enforcing social distances when student-athletes are not playing, minimizing equipment sharing, and requiring hand washing before and after practices and games as well as after sharing equipment.
The county also advised programs to play outdoors if possible and to use well-ventilated spaces.
Through Bellone’s office, the county has created the Champion of the Community Pledge, which encourages athletes to take numerous safety measures.
After they read the pledge, students will be asked to sign it and give it to the school.
As a part of this agreement, students accept that if they don’t honor their pledge, they “would be failing to comply with a legitimate school directive and pursuant to school and Section XI policies, students, faculty and staff will be subject to the appropriate accountability measures and disciplinary actions,” according to the pledge.
Athletes must stay safe, healthy and informed of COVID-19 updates, unite with team members and the community to have a memorable season, follow face mask, hygiene and social distancing guidelines, follow additional health and safety requirements, which may include testing and self-quarantining, operating in a healthy environment and completing daily declarations, lead by example and serve as a role model for team members and the community.
Boys and girls basketball, wrestling and competitive cheer will resume Feb. 1 and will conclude Feb. 27.
On average, more than 60,000 student-athletes participate in various high school sports during a normal school year.
Bellone also directed the Suffolk County Parks Department to work with Section XI to set up a fair process for districts to schedule cross-country meets in county parks.
Park sites that the county will make available for competition include West Hills County Park in Melville and Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown.
The cross-country season will begin March 1.