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Some NY high school sports can resume play Sept. 21

Jon Campbell
New York State Team
Soccer has been considered a "low-risk" sport by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

ALBANY – Certain high school sports teams will be allowed to begin play Sept. 21 in New York, while other sports deemed to be at higher risk to spread COVID-19 — including football — will remain on hold.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday the state's decision to allow "low" and "moderate risk" sports to return to game play, ending weeks of speculation surrounding whether his administration would allow interscholastic athletics in the fall.

Those sports — soccer, swimming, field hockey, cross country, golf and tennis among them — will be permitted to resume play and practice Sept. 21, according to Cuomo. Schools will not be permitted to travel outside their region or a neighboring region to play or practice until Oct. 19.

Sports deemed by the state to be "high risk" — including football, ice hockey, wrestling, basketball and volleyball — can resume non-competitive, non-contact practice Sept. 21, but won't be allowed to return to game play until Cuomo determines otherwise.

All high school teams will be required to follow the state Department of Health's COVID-19 guidelines for youth sports, which the agency issued earlier this summer.

"Schools will be coming back, there will be a little bit of a period to gauge what's happening, and Sept. 21 (low-risk sports teams) can start practicing and playing across the state," Cuomo said at a news conference on Long Island.

Fall sports had been in limbo

The governor's announcement Monday came as schools across the state gear up for the beginning of the academic year early next month, with individual districts opting for a wide array of in-person, remote and hybrid reopening models.

The fate of the fall season for high school sports, however, had remained in limbo.

Cuomo's announcement appeared to rescue hopes of a season for low- or non-contact sports, allowing them to begin their usual fall season a few weeks behind their normal schedule.

But it was a significant blow to those hoping to begin a football season in the coming weeks, or possibly even a basketball season in the winter.

In a news release, Cuomo's office signaled high-contact interscholastic sports cannot resume games "until a later date or December 31st."

For youth sports, the state had already separated sports into three categories: High risk, moderate risk and low risk.

Moderate- and low-risk sports have already been allowed to resume play, albeit with COVID-19 plans in place, while high-risk sports are allowed to do non-competitive workouts.

High school sports get some clarity

The state has treated high-school athletics as a different entity altogether, keeping them on hold until Cuomo laid out the restart timeline Monday.

Later Monday, Cuomo's office confirmed the state would use the same risk determinations it used for youth sports for high school sports.

Robert Zayas, the NYS Public High School Athletic Association executive director, said he will meet with sectional directors and the group's COVID-19 task force on Tuesday to review the state's guidelines and determine the next steps for a fall season.

"Great news for student-athletes!!" he tweeted following Cuomo's announcement.

High school sports will be subject to the same capacity restrictions as youth sports, according to the state.

That means no more than two spectators per athlete will be allowed to watch games. Indoor events, like swimming, will also be limited to no more than 50% capacity.

Which sports are allowed?

New York will allow low- and moderate-risk high school sports to resume game play and practice Sept. 21. High-risk sports can resume non-contact practice then, but game play remains on pause.

Here's the list as determined by the state Department of Health:

Low- or moderate-risk sports

Golf,Tennis,Swimming,Cross, Country, Baseball/softball, Water polo, Gymnastics, Field hockey, Soccer, Non-contact lacrosse

High-risk sports

Football, Wrestling, Ice hockey, Rugby, Basketball, Contact lacrosse, Volleyball, Martial arts, Competitive cheer/dance.