State says yes to school sports, Section III waits for local health department authorizations


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — With high-risk winter sports allowed to start Feb.1, Section III is waiting for authorization from county health departments on how to proceed.

The State Health Department gave the go-ahead last week for these sports to be played on Feb. 1, but only with local authorization.

Section III includes 11 counties in Central New York and Northern New York.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has updated its guidance for health departments and sections to use in formulating a plan for not only winter sports, but also Fall Sports II and Spring Sports.

NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas says, “We’ve gotten more accustomed to pivoting and revising and amending and we’re going to have to continue to do that if we’re going to be able to provide these student-athletes with beneficial participation and experiences.”

Here are the earliest start dates as authorized by the State Health Department:

  • High-Risk Winter Sports: Feb. 1
  • Fall Sports II: March 1
  • Spring Sports: April 19

Fall Sports II includes football, competitive cheerleading, and volleyball. It also includes other fall sports for sections that choose not to have any seasons last September and October.

Zayas says each section has the autonomy of setting its own end dates for seasons, which may mean a later start date.

“It might be most beneficial to extend the basketball season a little bit further because there’s still three feet of snow in the North Country and the likelihood of getting out and playing football at that point and time is not as good as it may be in the lower portion of the state,” he tells NewsChannel 9.

He adds that the issue of face coverings, or masks, has been addressed by the State Health Department.

“The Department of Health has said everyone is required to wear face coverings if they cannot maintain six feet social distance unless a student cannot tolerate a face-covering during physical activity,” he explains.

State Health has set 50% capacity and no more than two spectators per participant.

Zayas says some sections and school districts have decided not to allow spectators to attend games.

He adds that the State, sections, and local authorities can signal the start of these seasons, but it will be up to students to determine how they finish, which means they must be safe in and out of practices and games.

“Students need to make sure they’re avoiding social gatherings, they need to make sure they’re wearing their face covering, they need to set a good example for the rest of the student population,” Zayas tells NewsChannel 9.

Click here to read the updated guidance from NYSPHSAA.

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