Tuesday’s daily press conference for Governor J.B. Pritzker held news for winter sports after no mention of high school athletics for days.  Updated guidance for winter sports, as well as the news of basketball being moved from medium-risk to high-risk, were released during today’s press conference.

“We can’t ignore what is happening around us – because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring.” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It’s with that in mind that today, my administration is releasing our updated guidance for youth and adult recreational sports in Illinois ahead of the winter season. As with sports in the fall, nothing is ‘canceled,’ just put on hold until we’re through the thick of this pandemic.

“We adapt as we learn. That has been our mantra throughout this pandemic, and as is true in every other facet of life, we know this virus is of most concern when people are indoors with high contact, especially in vigorous situations that bring about heavy breathing – like in wrestling, hockey and basketball. Life in a pandemic is hard for everyone, and it’s hard for all of our kids, whether or not they play sports. That doesn’t make it any easier – but we really are all in this together.”

The youth sports guidance puts athletics into three categories (low-risk, medium-risk, high-risk) based on the amount of contact and their proximity during play.  Additionally, there are four separate levels that each sport can fall into based on current public health conditions.  In all levels, some form of play is allowed, however high-risk winter sports like basketball, wrestling, and hockey are only in Level I where no-contact practices and training is allowed.

“The science, as we know it right now, applies in all situations,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “The more people you are in contact with, the longer you are together, and the closer you are together, the greater your risk of getting COVID-19.  Being face to face with another person for a basketball or football game puts players at higher risk of getting and spreading the virus. Right now, cases across Illinois and the country are increasing.”

Both cheer and dance have also been tagged as high-risk but will be considered low-risk if masking and distancing are enforced.

In the past week, the IHSA had said they would likely green-light a basketball season if IDPH and the Governor’s Office agreed to their offer of having players wear masks for this season and not allowing spectators at competitions.

“About 15 minutes prior to Governor Pritzker’s press conference today, we were alerted that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has elevated the sport of basketball from a medium risk level to a high risk level. We remain considerate of the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases in our state,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in a statement. “However, in our meeting with IDPH on Friday (October 23), we felt that we presented multiple options that would allow for basketball to be conducted safely by IHSA schools this winter, many of which are being utilized in neighboring states who plan to play high school basketball.”

“Despite that setback, there is some positive news, as IDPH accepted the IHSA’s mitigations related to other sports, including cheerleading and dance, allowing them to move from a medium risk level to a low risk level. We will hold our special Board of Directors meeting on October 28 as scheduled, where our Board will provide direction on the other winter sports, as well as discuss the IHSA sports schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.”

This is a developing story

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