Cuomo: Fall sports may resume Sept. 21, but not football

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that some fall scholastic sports may resume play Sept. 21, but perhaps the most popular high school sport of all didn’t make the cut.

Football and volleyball are not on the approved list to play games this fall.

“Schools will be coming back, there’ll be a little bit of a period to gauge what’s happening and Sept. 21,they can start ot practice and play all across the state,” Mr. Cuomo said at a media briefing on Long Island Monday.

Sports that will be permitted to resume practice and play Sept. 21 include tennis, soccer, cross country, field hockey and swimming, according to the governor’s presentation. They will be required to follow COVID-19 protocols established by the state Department of Health.

The governor also said there will be no travel practice or play allowed outside of a school’s region until Oct. 19.

“We’re doing this in phases,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We want to see what the effect is, we want to see how it works. Schools opening in general is a big question mark.”

The news of sports returning one was welcome among local coaches and sports officials.

“I’m ecstatic that we’re allowed to begin to resume athletics in some capacity,” said Greenport athletic director Chris Golden, who also coaches the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold girls soccer team. “I’m always an optimistic person, the glass is always half full. I thought, especially considering New Jersey’s decision with some sports, this decision kind of mirrors New Jersey.

“I always held out hope, but until it happens, that’s all it is, it’s just a hope.”

Mr. Golden said he can see why sports like football and volleyball are not returning just yet.

“Football’s a lot of hands-on, close, body-to-body contact, and that unfortunately is a sport I would say poses a high risk as far as possible transmission of the virus,” he said. “Players are grunting, you’re in close contact. And volleyball I can understand, that’s inside and then that’s an area of concern because you’re bringing people together in smaller spaces. So, I look at it as kind of like a phased reopening of sports.”

Mattituck girls tennis coach Cory Dolson is cautiously optimistic sports will still start next month.

“My immediate reaction is that September 21st is so far away that while it’s positive news and I hope it’s true, I just think that we’re living in a world where things change so quickly that I just don’t want to get my hopes up,” he said. “I hope it happens. I think we’re doing great as a whole, you know what I mean, this area, so if the kids are going to go to school, I think we can find a safe way to let them compete in athletics. They’re all playing athletics in the clubs and everything anyway.”

He believes a return to sports will be a positive for students.

“I think the kids need it,” Mr. Dolson said. “If they’re going to come to school every day, they need that outlet afterwards to get them competing again. I think it’s good for everybody.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Cuomo announced schools would be permitted to reopen in the fall due to low COVID-19 infection rates statewide.

The governor reported Monday that the state is averaging an infection rate of 0.66% — the lowest to date — and has maintained an infection rate of less than 1% for 17 straight days.

“The numbers are good all across the state,” Mr. Cuomo said. 

There were 482 coronavirus hospitalizations, 120 ICU patients and 7 deaths reported statewide Sunday, officials said.

Higher risk sports that include full physical contact: football, rugby and ice hockey, may practice, Mr. Cuomo said, but are not authorized to resume competitive play at this point. Wrestling, a winter sport, has also not yet been approved.

On Long Island, officials reported an infection rate of 0.6% Sunday, a metric that continues to be tracked. Mr. Cuomo said caution flags are raised in the Western New York region, where a rolling five-day average soared to 63, up from 34 new cases last week.

He pointed to infection clusters at steel and food processing plants, new nursing home cases and testing of seasonal farm laborers as possible causes for the increase.

Mr. Cuomo also announced that new testing sites will be set up at JFK and LaGuardia airports for incoming out-of-state passengers.