Two counties in the greater Capital Region announced Wednesday they won’t grant approval for “high” risk sports to start Feb. 1.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy made that announcement during his COVID-19 update on Wednesday morning, while a press release issued that night from the Washington County Department of Health offered the same conclusion.
“I want to ensure everyone who is listening to this — please, listen — you’re not going to get the green light February 1,” McCoy said. “So, if you think sports are going to start [on] February 1st, it’s not going to happen.”
Last Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave state approval for “high” risk sports — such as high school basketball, ice hockey and wrestling — to start their delayed seasons as early as Feb. 1, but with the caveat that county health departments also had to OK such activity.
On Wednesday, the respective Departments of Health of several counties did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Gazette on the status of “high” risk sports within their areas. Schenectady County manager Rory Fluman confirmed in an email to The Daily Gazette that the county was still weighing whether to start Feb. 1.
“Schenectady County continues to evaluate the situation, and is working with other local health departments to develop a regional approach, as most school sports cross county borders,” Fluman wrote. “We anticipate that the details of this regional approach will be finalized in the coming days.”
McCoy, along with Albany County Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, stated that a 4% or lower rolling average would be needed for “high” risk sports to gain approval within Albany County. Wednesday’s seven-day average in Albany County was 7.4%, with a 7% positivity rate for Tuesday’s individual testing, according to data available at forward.ny.gov.
Albany County’s decision affects 12 local high schools — including six in the Suburban Council with Albany, Bethlehem, Christian Brothers Academy, Guilderland, Shaker and Colonie.
“We would never want to see any of our member schools in the league, or even the section not have an opportunity to participate,” Saratoga Springs Athletic Director Nick McPartlon said. “I think all of us in the Suburban Council prepared for adjusting appropriately to do what we can to move forward, to try to offer up as many sports as possible to our kids.”
Other leagues impacted would be the Colonial Council including, Cohoes, Voorheesville and Watervliet, Heatly in the Central Hudson Valley League and Berne-Knox-Westerlo in the Western Athletic Conference.
Wednesday’s announcement will force the affected leagues to adjust any plans it had for Feb. 1.
“I think we’re kind of accustomed to this year not getting too comfortable with any situation,” McPartlon said.
He said the league’s athletic directors were prepared for at least one out of the four counties within the Suburban Council’s makeup not to approve “high” risk sports.
“It’s not great news for the Albany County schools, but not all of our schools fall into that county, so there’s still a chance for the other schools,” McPartlon said.
Shaker athletic director Matt Stein and Colonie athletic director Joe Guardino did not respond to requests for comment.
The Washington County press release stated “Washington County cannot soundly permit these ‘higher risk’ sports to proceed at this time,” a decision that directly affects 10 school districts. The statement did not define any criteria needed for “high” risk sports to resume.
According to a report in the The Post-Star, the Glens Falls School District has paused all winter sports activities, including “moderate” and “low” risk sports, and doesn’t plan to participate in “high” risk sports, even if permitted by Warren County officials.
Other counties in New York, including Chemung, Dutchess, Nassau and Suffolk gave approval for “high” risk sports to begin on Feb. 1.