CHICAGO — Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced new guidance Tuesday when it comes to youth and adult recreational sports, especially when it comes upcoming winter high school sports seasons during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The biggest change of note in the new guidelines, is the movement of high school basketball from the medium risk to high risk level, "due to the close contact of players and indoor play."
Winter sports such as wrestling and hockey are also categorized in the high risk level.
Cheer and dance are categorized as lower risk, only if masks and social distancing are implemented. Bowling, gymnastics, swimming and diving will be permitted to play during the winter.
The move essentially puts the upcoming high school basketball season "on hold".
“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. “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.”
This new announcement comes a day ahead of a planned meeting of the Illinois High School Association, which was slated to make an announcement on winter sports.
“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.”
Sports deemed as "high risk" can only be played at the level 1 designation in Illinois, which incorporates just no-contact practices and training. Sports have to reach level 3 before they are allowed to be played competitively.