Cortland County Releases Requirements for Higher Risk K-12 School Sports

Cortland Girls vs. Homer Girls Basketball (Photo from The Cortland Voice 2019-2020 Winter season files).

Effective February 1, 2021, and until otherwise indicated, student-athletes are permitted to participate in organized recreational league or K-12 sponsored higher-risk school sports in Cortland County, provided that the following requirements are met.

  • Each sport-specific preparedness plan must be approved by the district/school’s medical director. It is recommended that recreational leagues base sports-specific preparedness plans on district/school approved plans
  • Each school district is required to inform the district’s Board of Education or non-public school’s Board of Directors (or other appropriate person/entity) of the district/schools sport-specific preparedness plan.
  • Each school superintendent/school leader, or appropriate person/entity for recreational leagues, must oversee the creation of a sport-specific preparedness plan that delineates:
  1. A plan administrator, who is responsible for communicating the plan to -athletes, coaches, parents, trainers, referees/officials, etc.
  2. A plan coordinator, who will serve as a point of contact, should any cases be identified. The coordinator must facilitate and assist with case investigation and contact elicitation and notification.
  3. A daily system to ensure that no one associated with the practice or competition is ill, including referees/officials and spectators.
  4. A system for logging attendance by all individuals associated with the practice or competition, including referees/officials and spectators. The system must capture names, phone numbers and email addresses.
  5. How practice and game times can be staggered to avoid crowding and congestion when participants, referees/officials and spectators are arriving, playing, and leaving.
  6. If feasible, how pods can be created to limit the potential for transmission in the event of an exposure. A pod is a group of athletes who only practice or play with members of their own pod.
  7. Pods should either practice in physically separate rooms, facilities or areas or steps taken to ensure that pods are appropriately distanced.
  8. Teams should avoid reassigning athletes to different pods to the maximum extent possible.
  9. The smaller the pod size, the more the team can minimize potential transmission.

  10. How sharing of objects (e.g. water bottles, towels, snacks) will be avoided and the use of dedicated personal equipment encouraged.
  11. If feasible, how practices or competitions can be held outdoors. If not feasible, how time spent indoors can be minimized.
  12. How locker rooms and facility shower use can be avoided.

  13. How carpooling can be discouraged to the extent possible.

  14. How travel by buses will conform to social distancing requirements for buses per state school transportation requirements; for recreational leagues, use of buses should also conform to NYS guidance for social distancing bus transportation requirements for schools.
  15. How congregate dining will be minimized and when it is necessary, how NYS social distancing regulations related to dining and gatherings will be adhered to.

  • Each parent/guardian must sign a district/school developed SARS-CoV-2 informed consent that, at a minimum, acknowledges that:
  1. Participation in the higher-risk sport places the student-athlete at risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
  2. Symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus.
  3. Masking, distancing, and other mitigation measures reduce, but do not eliminate risk.
  4. At present, it cannot be predicted who will become severely ill if infected.
  5. SARS-CoV-2 can lead to serious medical conditions and death for people of all ages.
  6. The long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 are, at present, unknown; even people with mild cases may experience long-term complications.
  7. There is a significant risk of transmission to those in the home of infected student-athletes.
  8. Older people and people with underlying health conditions are at higher risk of serious disease.
  9. This acknowledgement, shall include consent that a condition of ongoing participation will be full cooperation with case/contact investigations and compliance with isolation/quarantine requests if indicated.
  • Each district/school obtains a medical clearance from the student-athletes healthcare provider.
  • Each district/school establishes and disseminates their own dedicated phone number and email address to allow athletes, 
parents or others to report alleged failures to adhere to the obligations reflected in these requirements and/or those in NYS’ Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation During the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency.
  • Masks that conform to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must be worn at all times, by all student-athletes, coaches, managers, referees/officials, spectators, individuals dropping off or picking up student-athletes, etc. If student-athletes are unable to wear a mask because of difficulty breathing during high intensity activities or swimming, they must wear all times when not actively playing, including when on bench or pool deck.
  1. Any mask that becomes saturated with sweat must be changed immediately.
  2. Reusable masks (cloth face coverings) must be washed daily in hot water and not reused until cleaned.
  3. Coaches, managers, and other school employees should monitor proper use and correct improper use by student-athletes, when indicated.

  • Cortland County highly recommends that each student-athlete, coach, manager, referee/official, or other individual associated with the higher-risk sport (ice hockey, basketball, contact lacrosse, volleyball, and football) undergo weekly, PCR-based SARS- CoV-2 testing, unless the individual has documentation of a positive PCR-based SARS-CoV-2 test within the previous 90 days.
  • Wrestling is particularly problematic, since close contact is inherent to the sport, and masks cannot safely be worn. Therefore, wrestling will be allowed provided that participants are tested for COVID-19 at least weekly. Responsibility for this testing rests on the district/school.
  1. Recent MMWR publication dated Jan 26, 2021 warns of high transmission of SARS COV2 virus during high contact sports of wrestling and is of significant concern. Report concludes, “outbreak among athletes can impact in person learning for all students and can increase risk for secondary in school and community transmission with potentially severe outcomes including death.”
  2. Testing must be arranged or conducted by the district/school.
  3. The district/school must report patient-specific results (positive or negative) to the Cortland County Health Department.
  • Travel for practice or play to, or from, anywhere other than the Central New York region or contiguous counties is not permitted.
  1. Travel to, or from, any area that has been designated as a red or orange zone is not permitted.
  2. Travel to, or from, any area that has been designated as a yellow zone is permitted, so long as it adheres to all applicable NYS guidance.
  3. Superintendents/school leaders from districts/schools from outside Cortland County must stipulate to the host district/school that no one associated with the team is known to be ill or currently infected with SARS- CoV-2 prior to their team traveling to Cortland County to participate in a practice or competition. 

  4. Travel to/from interstate competitions is not recommended and travel to/from states with positivity rates that meet or exceed NYS orange and red zone micro-cluster rates is prohibited.
  • Districts/school or recreational leagues must limit spectators to minimize the risk of transmission and comply with venue guidance and capacity limits. No more than two spectators (parent, guardian, and caretaker) per home student-athlete may be permitted; no visiting team spectators. Indoor sports facilities are limited to allow 50% of capacity into their facility.
  • If an athlete or coach has a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, all in-person team or group activities (e.g., practices, scrimmages, games, meetings) will be cancelled for a 10-day period.
  • Each team is responsible for screening all athletes and coaches for COVID-19 symptoms for every team event, including practice. Individuals who were exposed to a COVID-19 case or diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 10 days are not allowed to participate in the sport or join spectators.
  • Multi-team events or tournaments involving higher-risk sports are not permitted in Cortland County.
  • Each district/school or recreational league agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the County, its directors, officers, employees 
and agents from and against any and all claims, actions or liabilities of any nature that may be asserted against them by third 
parties in connection with participation in higher-risk school sports.
  • The Cortland County Health Department will continuously review and implement updated requirements and restrictions as new 
information, data and guidance becomes available.
  • Each school district/school or recreational organization is required to post their plan to their website.