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Illinois announces new safety guidelines for recreational sports

The new guidelines take effect Saturday, Aug. 15
Credit: KSDK

CHICAGO — Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced new guidelines for youth and adult recreational sports that categorizes them into three risk levels during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Recreational sports include school-based sports, travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, recreational leagues and centers and park district sports programs. Collegiate sports and professional leagues are not affected by the new restrictions, the governor’s office said in a press release.

The guidance was developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Illinois State Board of Education.

“I know our hearts break when we hear the word ‘restrictions,’ especially when it comes to our children’s love for their sports. Whether this year is their first time on the court or it’s their senior season – this isn’t the news anyone wants to hear,” said Pritzker. “But with rising rates of spread of the virus, with rising positivity rates throughout Illinois and the United States, this is a situation where the toughest choice is also the safest one.”

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The new guidance categorizes sports into three risk levels – lower, medium or higher – based on the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play. The guidance sets four levels of play allowed based on current public health concerns, the release stated.

Level 1 – Only no-contact practices and training allowed

Level 2 – Intra-team scrimmages are allowed with parental consent for minors, no competitive play

Level 3 – Intra-conference, intra-EMS-region or intra-league play is allowed, may be state- or league-championship games allowed for low-risk sport play only

Level 4 – Tournaments, out-of-conference/league play, out-of-state play allowed, championship games also allowed

The guidance takes effect Saturday, Aug. 15.

Based on current conditions, lower risk sports can be played at levels 1, 2 and 3, the release stated. Medium risk sports can be played at levels 1 and 2 and higher risk sports can be played at level 1.

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“Daily physical activity is an important part of staying healthy,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many of our activities, including sports. Some sports carry an inherently higher risk of exposure because of direct contact, like football and wrestling, while others have a lower risk, like golf and bowling. As we learn to coexist with COVID-19, we must be smart and measured in how we go about it. We want to encourage people to be physically active, but to be safe and understand the risks that come with certain activities.”

Sports organizations should make temperature checks available and participants and coaches should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and should not participate if they are sick.

If multiple people have symptoms or test positive for the virus, the organization should contact the health department. Organizers must also maintain attendance logs or participants for contact tracing.

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Athletic equipment, like bats and hockey sticks, should be cleaned between each use. Other equipment, including personal gear like helmets, pads or gloves, should be only used by one person and not shared.  

“Extracurricular activities and sports are an important part to a well-rounded education,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “This guidance is not meant to be a one-size-fits-all approach and takes into account the inherent risk level of each individual sport and current public health conditions.”

Illinois first issued guidance for recreational sports in May, when every region in the state was in Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan, according to the release. The latest guidelines temporarily halt competitive play for most higher to medium risk sports “pending health progress.”

Click here for more information on the new guidelines.

On Wednesday, Illinois reported 1,393 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths. The state is reporting a total of 175,124 cases and 7,462 deaths across 102 counties.

Watch Gov. Pritzker's Wednesday press conference below:

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