High school basketball, wrestling on hold, Pritzker says
As winter sports participants await word on the fate of their seasons, the Illinois Department of Public Health Tuesday updated its all sports policy, moving basketball from medium risk to a higher risk sport, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker said basketball and wrestling are "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 at a news conference. "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 Illinois High School Association board of directors has a meeting Wednesday morning to decide the fate of winter sports.
"About 15 minutes prior to Gov. Pritzker's news conference today, we were alerted 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 Friday (Oct. 23) we felt 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 ... 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 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."
Winter sports are scheduled to begin formal practices Nov. 16.
The updated guidance moves basketball from medium risk to high risk due to the close contact of players and indoor play. Wrestling and hockey continue to be categorized as high risk as well. Cheer and dance will be categorized as lower risk, only if masking and distance are enforced. Low risk sports like bowling, gymnastics, swimming and diving will be permitted to play during winter.
"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."