Pritzker, Illinois health officials announce restrictions on winter sports


CHICAGO — Illinois health officials released their COVID-19 guidelines for winter sports Tuesday, imposing limits on the seasons of sports deemed low-risk while restricting those deemed high risk to no-contact practices and training only.

“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,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement. “Life in a pandemic is hard for everyone, and it’s hard for all of our kids, whether or not they play sports.

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson released a statement following the announcement.

“About 15 minutes prior to Governor Pritzker’s press conference today, we were alerted that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has elevated the sport of basketball from a medium risk level to a high risk level. We remain considerate of the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases in our state. However, in our meeting with IDPH on Friday (October 23), we felt that 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, there is some positive news, as 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 on October 28 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.”

The guidelines released Tuesday divide sports into three categories: higher risk, moderate risk and lower risk. The amount of activity allowed for each sport depends on its risk level. This includes:

Lower Risk

Includes: Archery, Badminton, Baseball, Bass Fishing, Bowling, Competitive Cheer, Competitive Dance, Climbing, Crew, Cross Country, Cycling, Disc Golf, Golf, Gymnastics, Horseback Riding, Ice Skating, Ropes Courses, Sailing, Canoeing, Kayaking, Sideline Spirit, Skateboarding, Softball, Skiing, Swimming/Diving, Tennis, Track and Field, Weight Lifting

Restrictions: Competitive play will be allowed among other teams in their conference or based in the same region of the Restore Illinois plan, and state or league championship games may be allowed.

Teams can also hold no-contact practices and intra-team scrimmages.

Moderate Risk

Includes: Fencing, Flag Football or 7v7 Football, Paintball, Racquetball, Soccer, Volleyball, Water Polo, Wheelchair Basketball

Competitive play will not be allowed, while teams can hold intra-team scrimmages in addition to no-contact practices and training.

Higher Risk

Includes: Basketball, Boxing, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Martial Arts, Rugby, Ultimate Frisbee, Wrestling

No competitive play will be allowed as teams can only hold no-contact practices and training.

Spectators can be allowed but they must wear masks at all time and attendance should be limited based on local COVID-19 guidelines, officials said.

“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,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “Being face to face with another person for a basketball or football game puts players at higher risk of getting and spreading the virus.”


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