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No immediate plans to allow winter sports in NY, officials say

Winter sports practice was originally scheduled to begin Nov. 16

Joseph Spector
The Evening Tribune
Wellsville and Hornell varsity girls basketball tip off last season. The status of the 2020-21 season is in doubt, state officials say.

ALBANY — With growing COVID cases in New York, state officials said Monday they are less likely to allow high risk indoor winter high school sports, such as basketball, hockey and wrestling.

New York has yet to announce any official decision on winter sports, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his top aides doubted whether the teams will be able to convene later this month as the schools had hoped.

"As we’re seeing the inclines in different parts of the state, we’re not inclined to go ahead with opening the winter sports at this time," Robert Mujica, the state budget director, who is helping to oversee any opening plans, said on a conference call with reporters.

"We’re continuing to look at those numbers, but the numbers right now don’t indicate we are going to expand them right now."

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association in August announced it would delay the winter sports season until Monday, Nov. 30 in order to give schools more time to complete the fall season. On Thursday, Section III announced that winter sports can begin Monday, Dec. 14.

Winter sports practice was originally scheduled to begin Nov. 16.

But basketball, ice hockey, wrestling and competitive cheerleading have all been deemed high-risk sports by the state health department, leaving their fate undecided.

Bowling, gymnastics, indoor track & field, skiing, swimming and diving have all received that designation from the health department. The rest remain on hold.

In Section III, swimming and diving has been moved to the Fall II season in March. Gymnasts are currently competing in the fall season.

"At this time, authorization has not been provided for high risk sports to begin play," Zayas said. "The high-risk sports start date continues to be examined and will be revised if needed but is contingent upon authorization from state officials."

It is also unclear whether any directive would apply to both school sports and youth recreational programs.

Cuomo said the infection rates will dictate what can open, explaining that New York has yet to allow the Buffalo Bills to have fans in the stadium for the same reason. Western New York had the highest infection rate in the state over the weekend.

"Can you open an activity? What is the overall infection rate? The overall infection rate is going up," Cuomo said of the decision making process.