* Gov. Pritzker…
Today we’re going to discuss youth sports. As I’ve noted previously among incidents that lead to higher rates of community spread. The outbreaks tied to youth sports are particularly troubling.
During a previous update I noted that dozens of students and parents tested positive in a Lake Zurich outbreak that was worsened by sports camps and a teen softball league in Knox County was plagued by similar issues.
On its own, and for the safety of its players and families, the Central Illinois Youth Football League entirely canceled its youth season. On Sunday, the football program in Tuscola, Illinois cut off all activities until further notice.
Nationally over half of states have districts that have shut down training, due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Whether they’re new to the game, or have been training since they could walk, kids want to play sports. Parents want to cheer from the stands and watch the kids succeed and offer some occasionally unsolicited advice for the next game.
Some young people are working toward a scholarship so that they can fund their college education. These are incredibly important moments in the lives of our children and our families and interrupting the season for our athletes and their fans is not a choice that anyone wants to make.
But when the multi million dollar, multi billion dollar sports leagues with multi million dollar athletes are struggling to protect their players, it’s obvious that there won’t be enough protection for kids on our school playing fields. The NBA has resorted to containing its players in aOrlando, to press on with its season, MLB is facing down a major outbreak just days into its abbreviated fan free season.
This virus is unrelenting, and it spreads so easily that no amount of restriction seems to keep it off the playing field or out of the locker room.
And it’s very painful, frankly, for all of us to make this realization. But with rising rates of spread of the virus, with rising positivity rates throughout Illinois, and the entire United States, this is a situation where the toughest choice is also the safest choice.
Therefore today, my administration is releasing new guidance restricting youth and adult recreational organized sports in Illinois. That Aincludes school based sports such as those governing governed by the IHSA and IES, travel clubs, private leagues, recreational leagues and sports centers and Park District sports programs, just to name a few. In the array of examples, we have worked in consultation with the governing bodies of many of these organized sports programs and collectively. We hope that when metrics and risks improve measurably, we will be able to restart the sports. I want to be clear that the restrictions issued today do not include professional sports leagues, or collegiate level sports.
I know our hearts break when we hear the word restrictions, especially when it comes to our children’s love for their sports, whether this year is their first time on the court, or it’s their senior year season.
This isn’t news that anyone wants to hear. But this virus remains dangerous to kids and parents and grandparents, teachers and coaches and for right now. This is the best thing that we can do for the health and safety of our families. Under the current circumstances, based upon their inherent risk level and based upon minimal contact between athletes and their proximity during play. There are certain sports whose seasons can move forward with more limited restrictions. Tennis and baseball as examples simply don’t carry the higher risk inherent in contact sports like wrestling and football. That differentiation is reflected in these guidelines which categorize each sport into three overarching risk levels, lower, medium, and higher.
Think of these guidelines like a grid. Three risk levels of sports and four tiers of levels of play, based on current public health conditions.
At each of the four tiers, different aspects of play are permitted, from no contact practices that include conditioning and training at level one to full scale tournaments in level four. Effective August 15, lower risk sports like tennis, and baseball and golf can be played at levels one, two and three, with activities like no contact practices, team scrimmages and certain competitive games allowed with IDPH safety guidelines.
Medium risk sports like basketball, soccer and volleyball can be played at levels one and two, with no contact practices and team scrimmages allowed.
And higher risk sports like football hockey and lacrosse can be played at level one with no contact practices and trainings and conditioning.
I won’t go through all the sports and what activities are allowed at each level for each sport, but you can read all about these in the guidelines on the state’s coronavirus website. I will also add that the IHSA, the independent body that regulates most school sports. is meeting now to determine how fall sports should move forward in a way that is safe.