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County Gives Clearance For High-Risk Sports

Local high schools have received clearance from the Chautauqua County Health Department to move ahead with high-risk winter sports.

In a statement released late Tuesday, Western New York county health officials, including Chautauqua County, said sports can proceed as long as they follow New York state guidance. There will only be 50% capacity in buildings and only two spectators per player.

“We don’t know much more than anybody else,” said Silver Creek Athletic Director Sean Helmer said early Tuesday. “I believe the section met with all five counties on Monday, but we weren’t given any guidance based on that. They basically told us to be on hold before they’d commit to any information.”

Schools are likely to get more information this morning, followed by an afternoon meeting where the schools will meet with the Chautauqua and Cattaraugus County Athletic Associations to discuss the creation of schedules. Even with that though, there are still several questions up in the air.

“The schedules will get created that night, and the next day coaches will have information,” Helmer said. “As of right now we don’t know if we have any non-league games, if parents will be allowed to attend games, or if we are even crossing county lines.”

The schedule being released is the largest point of concern for Southwestern Athletic Director Kevin Salisbury in regards to the logistics of the season working.

“The biggest concern I have, obviously outside of safety for players, coaches, and spectators, is trying to get a schedule to the kids,” he said. “It’s going to be a big challenge, but it’s exciting to be able to get it done.”

Southwestern has been holding open gyms for a period of time now, in hopes of getting the kids ready for a potential season, and Salisbury said the one held Monday had a different vibe to it. “Monday’s open gym had a different feel,” Salisbury said. “Now kids know that this is happening, and they actually are going to have a good chance to play.”

The blueprint for success in regards to safety and protocols was in theory laid by the state during the fall, when soccer and cross country were taking place in the county, and Salisbury hopes they use and improve the groundwork they already laid.

“The fall felt very successful for kids, and I’m hopeful that the section and the Departments of Health will use the fall as a model when they come up with a guidance for the winter and spring sports,” Salisbury said. “We just need to be a little more patient so we can move forward.”

One of the biggest regulations will be in regard to mask usage, which is one thing Helmer was able to guess on, based on the regulations for the fall sports.

“My assumption would be that if kids can’t tolerate a mask, they don’t have to use one during the game,” Helmer said. “In group discussion, masks will be on. Coaches will likely have masks on the whole time. There will probably be hand sanitizing, and pretty strict protocols I assume.”

Some information that is already available to the schools is the protocol for what happens should a coach or player test positive, as that information was put in the updated version of the document that has been available to schools all year. “From what I read in the document, if there is a positive case with a coach or athlete, that program is down 10 days,” Helmer said. “They will be very strict about it.”

Despite all of these regulations, Helmer is happy for the kids to get an opportunity to play their sports, as a few months ago, the circumstances didn’t appear to allow the kids to have the chance to do anything at all.

“I was reminding people to think back a couple months when they’re saying, ‘We wish we could do something,'” Helmer said. “We should appreciate that we have something, no matter how restrictive it may be.”

While the issues of masks, protocols, and how many, if any, people can attend games all remain up in the air, the athletic directors are expected to have more information at some point this afternoon.

“(Today’s) meeting will be lengthy,” Helmer said.

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