High school sports could resume--if our numbers drop


By Jim Poole

Idle for almost a year, high school athletes may be back in action later this month.
But safety comes first.
Schoharie County Public Health Director Amy Gildemeister on Friday gave the okay for sports to resume, but only if the COVID-19 positivity level drops and schools and athletes follow safety guidelines.
Sports deemed high risk––basketball, wrestling, volleyball, football and cheerleading––can start when the positivity level reaches four percent in a seven day rolling average, Dr. Gildemeister said.
The county level was 7.9 percent late last week and has dropped since.
“We’re not close [to four percent], but also, cases are going down,” Dr. Gildemeister said during the WebEx press conference.
Schools must also prepare a high-risk sports reopening plan, and school boards must approve proposals for each high-risk sport.
Also, parents must sign consent forms and athletes must get clearance from healthcare providers.
“It’s not to say this is without risk, but if guidelines are followed, the risks are acceptable,” Dr. Gildemeister said.
“We love kids being active, but it’s also important to protect the community.”
Wrestling may be an issue because competitors are so close together. Dr. Gildemeister pointed to a case in Florida, where one positive case at a match spread through teams and families.
“It’s not just about students. It’s about spreading to families and the community,” Dr. Gildemeister said.
The plan was a collaborative one among many Upstate counties and was written by Saratoga County health officials.
One consideration was requiring athletes to be tested, but that would put poorer, rural counties, like Schoharie, at a disadvantage because there are fewer testing sites.
Athlete testing, however, is recommended, Dr. Gildemeister said.
Cobleskill physician Stephen Strasser was at the press conference and said it would be difficult for the plan to succeed if athlete-testing isn’t required.
“Without testing, right before an event, you just don’t know,” Dr. Strasser said.
Also at the press conference, Schoharie Superintendent Dave Blanchard said SCS officials will be working on their plan, which will probably include some form of testing.
“There has been no community spread in Schoharie schools at this point,” Mr. Blanchard said in an email.
“If that changes because of sports, we will have a real problem.”
Mr. Blanchard applauded the work of Dr Gildemeister and other health officials, as did Cobleskill-Richmondville Superintendent Carl Mummenthey.
C-R officials are working on their plan this week and will probably present it to the school board on Monday, Mr. Mummenthey said.
Postivity rates are dropping and will drop further as SUNY Cobleskill students return, he added.
“I think the metrics will favor the athletes,” Mr. Mummenthey said, indicating that the return of sports is likely.