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NYSPHSAA chief receives guidance from NYS health department

Student-athletes, coaches and administrators hoping to receive more guidance on high school sports from New York state Monday were left with little.

In his daily press briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out initial requirements for schools to reopen their doors in the fall, but did not mention if that would include athletic competition.

“For every athletic director in the state, it’s challenging to say the least,” Southwestern athletic director Kevin Salisbury said Monday night. “Normally by now we have the football team, volleyball, soccer, basketball all in at certain times during the week doing summer stuff. … We are not allowing anybody in our facilities indoor or outdoor per the governor’s guidelines.”

One of the slides in the presentation included “Aftercare & Extracurriculars.” Bullet points on that slide said schools must develop a plan for before and aftercare; and any extracurriculars must follow New York State procedures.

At the time, Dr. Robert Zayas, New York State Public High School Athletic Association executive director, published a tweet stating he needed clarification on the “NYS Procedures” referenced on the slide.

Later Monday, Zayas received guidance from the state Health Department.

It read, “Policies regarding extracurricular programs and which activities will be allowed, considering social distancing, PPE usage, and cleaning and disinfection, as well as risk of COVID-19 transmission (e.g. interscholastic sports, assemblies, and other gatherings). Policies should consider how to maintain cohorts, if applicable, or members of the same household. Responsible parties should refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation.”

It continued: During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency” to assist in development of these policies; however, interscholastic sports are not permitted at the time of publication of this guidance, and additional information on athletic activities is forthcoming.”

During Cuomo’s briefing, the governor said that schools in a Phase 4 region could open this fall if they had a daily infection rate below 5% using a 14-day average. Also, schools should close if the regional infection rate is above 9% over a seven-day average.

“It’s purely on the numbers, purely on the science,” Cuomo said.

Those determinations will not be made until at least the first week of August. For sports, that means there will not be any organized activities on school grounds until then. More likely, districts will be looking for guidance before Aug. 24 — the first day of practice for fall sports.

“We’re all very hopeful that we’ll hear something to be honest before Aug. 1,” Salisbury said. “I know personally I have circled that date in hopes we’ll hear something that will at least allow us to have some closure on what we’re going to be able to do.”

Youth sports have been allowed in Phase 4 regions since July 6 as long teams are not traveling long distances and/or across state lines.

“The reality is, not just sports, but all extra curriculars are a big part of the social, emotional and educational experience,” Salisbury said. “If we can’t have any of those, I think that will really be detrimental to those kids.”

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