Getting high school basketball games underway this season will have to wait it appears after Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the Illinois Department of Public Health’s latest sports guidelines Tuesday afternoon.
Basketball, in particular, was elevated from a medium-risk level to high risk “due to the close contact of players and indoor play,” Pritzker’s office said in a press release.
The guidelines, which also extend to club teams and recreational leagues but not collegiate or professional organizations, were developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health as well as public health experts from around the state and the U.S. and “reflects the high levels of risk associated with contact sports played indoors,” the announcement said.
“We can’t ignore what is happening around us because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring,” Pritzker said in the press release. “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 ‘cancelled,’ 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.”
IHSA executive director said the state’s high school athletics’ governing body met with the IDPH on Friday and presented several plans to get sports underway.
“About 15 minutes prior to Governor Pritzker’s press conference today, we were alerted that the Illinois Department of Public Health has elevated the sport of basketball from a medium risk level to a high risk level,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “We remain considerate of the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases in our state. 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.”
Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate is 6.4 percent as of Monday.
“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.”
Wrestling and hockey remain high risk while cheer and dance went from medium risk to lower risk, “only if masking and distance are enforced.”
Medium and high risk sports are prohibited from competitive play.this
Traditional fall sports in Illinois, such as football, girls volleyball and boys soccer, were pushed back to the spring while cross country, golf, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving were all able to compete up to the sectional level of postseason advancement. There were no state championship competitions. The final cross country meets, the sectionals, are scheduled for Saturday.