A statewide surge in COVID-19 cases has caused the state of Illinois to readjust restrictions governing youth and recreational sports.
NBC Chicago reports that Illinois — the only Midwestern state not currently playing high school football — has tightened restrictions to move basketball from the moderate-risk to the high-risk category. The change was announced just ahead of a special meeting of the Illinois High School Association, which had been planned to announce the fate of winter sports.
According to guidance, high risk activities can only take place under “Level 1 restrictions,” which limit players to no-contact practices and training only.
“Basketball is played indoors with frequent close contacts to other players, which includes 10 on the court and often just as many on both benches, a single piece of shared equipment that is difficult to clean during the game, and an intensity level that makes masking more difficult,” the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a press release.
Basketball’s high-risk categorization puts it on par with sports such as hockey, boxing, football and wrestling.
CBS Chicago reports that the new guidance was released in response to surging cases in the state, as well as new research into COVID-19 in sports and sports-related outbreaks in other states.
“As with sports in the fall, nothing is ‘cancelled,' just put on hold until we're through the thick of this pandemic,” governor J.B. Pritzker said in a news release. “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."
IHSA executive director Craig Anderson released a statement in reaction to the news, saying, “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 high 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.”