Districts move forward with ‘high-risk’ sports

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Last week the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) recommended that school districts cancel “high-risk” sports in high-transmission areas like Monroe County.

This week, some local school districts are deciding to move forward with their plans for “high-risk” sports during the upcoming fall semester amid rising case numbers.

Hilton Central School District’s Director of Phys. Ed. and Athletics Mike Giruzzi says he learned a lot from having to navigate COVID-19 protocols last year.

"As of right now, we are intending to move forward with the full season," Giruzzi said. "We can do it and do it safely, I think we proved that last year as we were able to implement, and it looked different, you know, shorter season, less contest, but we were able to from September on… implement interscholastic athletics in a safe manner."

Hilton athletics will operate under the district’s official COVID guidance which could be released any day.

Last year, public high school athletic departments operated using guidance from the New York State Department of Health with help from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

The association sent News10NBC a statement in response to the recent recommendations from NYSED saying:

“We believe the NYSED guide is a useful tool for schools to utilize when accessing the best plan for their district.
This document contains guidelines and recommendations, it is not a mandate or requirement.
We continue to encourage our member schools to work closely with local health officials to determine how interscholastic athletics should be administrated as situations can vary throughout communities and the state.”

-Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director

Hilton has not received recommendations from the Monroe County Department. of Public Health at this point. However, Giruzzi said he communicates often with Section V.

"The last guidance we got from the New York State Department of Health was in June, that all designations in interscholastic return to activities was basically lifted,” said Shaun Jeffers, coordinator of communications and marketing for Section V. “So there is no classification of high-risk, so we don’t know what they meant by high risk there."

During the 2020-2021 academic year, sports deemed “high-risk” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were football, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, cheerleading, hockey, and lacrosse. Now there is some confusion among Section V about what the NYSED means when it says “high-risk.”

"There is really no risk assessment that we can point to or be defined at this point,” Jeffers said. “At this point, has the definition changed? I would say there is no definition of high to low risk in our sports."