IHS girls hockey (Courtesy of IHS Girls Hockey Facebook)

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department has approved the resumption of high risk youth and recreational sports locally, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he would leave the decision up to local governments.

High risk sports are defined as football, wrestling, ice hockey, rugby, basketball, contact lacrosse, volleyball, martial arts, competitive cheer and group dance, and “other sports with similar abilities to maintain physical distance and/or limit exposure to shared equipment prior to such equipment being cleaned and disinfected.” The Ithaca City School District’s Board of Education mentioned at their meeting this week that teams in the district would be restarting competition in the coming weeks.

The full guidance from the state is available here.

The reinstatement of these sports depends on the implementation of COVID safety plans, as well as a litany of other requirements put into place by the Tompkins County Health Department, which are as follows:

  • Sports organizations including schools must prepare a COVID safety plan in accordance with the interim guidance, post it on their website, and submit an email with a link to the plan to TCEH@tompkins-co.org for our files. The safety plan template is here
  • If the organization does not have a website, an electronic or hard copy of the plan must be submitted to the Tompkins County Health Department for our files.
  • Plans must address how compliance with requirements will be assured.
  • Tournaments are not allowed.
  • Sports associated with schools must comply with the corresponding school’s transportation plan.
  • Health screenings are required for all employees and strongly encouraged for players, patrons, and spectators.
  • It is strongly recommended that contact information for all employees, players, patrons, and spectators be obtained including names, phone numbers and email addresses, if available.
  • Carpooling is strongly discouraged.
  • Maintaining practice pods in small sizes without mixing athletes is recommended.

“Contact sports bring people close together and increase risk of transmission,” said Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “If schools and other organizations, athletes, and their parents/guardians choose to resume higher risk sports, they must do so in a safe manner and give considerable thought to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We must work together during these stressful times to ensure that our youth athletes have the opportunity to participate in athletics safely.”

Previous restrictions put in place for low and moderate risk sports still apply to those sports and high risk sports as well, though tournaments are now allowed for these sports. Those, as listed by the health department, are as follows:

  • Ensure 6’ distance at all times possible, this is of special concern in common areas.
  • All individuals not actively participating in sports must wear acceptable face coverings when in common areas or when unable to physically distance.
  • Players must wear acceptable face coverings unless unable to tolerate a face covering for the physical activity.
  • No more than 2 spectators per player. Other capacity restrictions may apply.
  • Signage, distance markers, and flow control are required. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface, as well as drinking fountains. This should be done at least daily.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com