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Oneida County officials, school superintendents discuss “barriers” to allow “high-risk” winter sports

By Eric Reinhardt (


UTICA, N.Y. — Oneida County officials and the county’s school superintendents have identified “barriers” to allowing “high-risk” winter sports in area school districts.

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., Director of Public Health Daniel Gilmore and 12 local school superintendents on Tuesday participated in a conference call to discuss the issues surrounding high-risk winter sports.

The New York State Education Department, New York State Department of Health, and the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo have “created a system where contradictions and inconsistencies in participation and approval of high-risk sports is insurmountable for many districts.”

As a result of Tuesday’s call, Picente, Gilmore, and the 12 superintendents involved issued the following statement:

“The timeline and guidance to submit a plan to local health departments is too compressed and lacking in detail to be completed, leaving no time for school districts to properly plan while giving no direction to local health departments on what details need to be included in a school district’s plan for approval.

Contradictions in the state’s high-risk sport guidance and education guidance is evident. In-school physical education guidance says children should be 12 feet apart at all times, yet high-risk sports involve close contact.

Further, New York State is requiring the use of data related to new variants of COVID-19 in school districts’ communities even though the Oneida County Health Department and most local health departments have no way of collecting or obtaining that information.

Meanwhile, by definition, indoor, high-risk sports are inherently more likely to cause the spread of the virus at a crucial time where our collective focus should be on vaccination and prevention efforts while accomplishing the overall goal of returning students to classrooms.”

“The process New York State has created, mandated and thrusted upon counties and local school districts is loaded with contradictions and requirements creating confusion,” Picente said. “I implore the state to get in the game and create guidance that would even begin to allow this type of activity.”

“High-risk activity of any kind is ill-advised during this crucial point of the pandemic,” Gilmore said. “Those considering doing so, should proceed with extreme caution.”


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