High-risk sports resume in New York

Following legislation introduced by New York State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, along with a letter Schmitt sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state of New York allowed high-risk sports to resume on Feb. 1.

While low- and moderate-risk sports had the opportunity to practice and compete during their fall and winter seasons, higher-risk sports — characterized by the New York State Department of Health’s Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation as those in which athletes have the “least ability to maintain physical distance and/or be done individually” — saw their winter seasons put on hold. Now, with updated guidelines, sports such as football, wrestling, basketball, and cheerleading have the chance to hold team practices and competitions.

The final decision will be made by local county health departments, with several counties opting to operate under the four percent threshold: in these counties, high-risk sports will not be allowed to be played until the rolling seven-day COVID-19 test positivity rate declines to four percent or less.

Still, the updated guidelines come as exciting news for athletes. With the state of New York being one of the earliest states to issue a stay-at-home order and order the closing of non-essential businesses last March, this, coupled with the fact that New York’s new daily case count has been steadily decreasing since mid-January, seems to paint a hopeful picture for a fuller resumption of high-risk sports and winter sport seasons.

New York’s decision brings an air of optimism, but it will ultimately be up to the athletes and athletic staff to operate in a capacity that keeps all those involved safe. While carelessness and negligence could result in new waves of COVID-19 cases among the athletic community, responsible use of precautions and adherence to guidelines could allow for a successfully restored winter sporting season.