N.J announces restart dates for organized sports based on three-tier risk groups
The New Jersey Department of Health finalized its guidelines for organized sports to resume and Gov. Phil Murphy announced the details during his press briefing on Monday afternoon.
On May 29, Murphy announced that some organized sports could resume on June 22. That date remains in play but was clarified on Monday to align with guidance issued by the National Federation of High School on May 20. The NFHS grouped sports into three tiers: low, moderate and high risk.
The new guidelines apply only to outdoor sports.
Murphy said that low-risk sports such as golf and tennis can resume with practice and competition on June 22.
Medium-risk sports such as baseball, softball, soccer and outdoor basketball can resume non-contact practices and drills on June 22. Barring a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, Murphy said it is anticipated competition can resume on those sports beginning July 6.
Finally, high-risk sports such as football and boys lacrosse can resume non-contact practices and drills on June 22 and it is anticipated that full-contact practices and competition can resume on July 20.
"Sports are an ingrained part of so many of our communities and our lives," Murphy said. "We want everyone to be healthy and get out and play but even more we wanted everyone to be safe."
Activities under the oversight of the NJSIAA or NCAA must abide by those association's rules, Murphy reiterated. All competitions must also abide by rules governing outdoor gatherings, which currently stands at 100 people but is expected to be at 250 on June 22 and 500 on July 3.
The NJSIAA was quick to clarify where high school sports stand, however, considering fall sports will depend on several factors, including if schools can conduct in-person classes.
“The governor’s announcement today regarding youth and recreation sports is another positive step in our collective effort to return to play. It’s important to note, however, that while these particular guidelines are instructive, they don’t directly apply to high school athletics," the NJSIAA said in a statement.
"Any scholastic sports program is part of the overall curriculum, and so must be appropriately in sync with all other facets of the school. High school athletics cannot function independently from schools – which, of course, are currently focused on the safe return of more 1.3 million students, including 283,000 high school student-athletes. In short, scholastic sports present far more pressing and complex considerations than do youth and recreation-level programs."
As previously announced, we anticipate having guidelines for high school sports by June 19, with summer workouts starting on or around July 13. NJSIAA strongly believes that with summer workouts starting in July, student-athletes will have more than enough time to prepare for the fall season.”
While the state guidelines mark June 22 as a return date for non-contact OTAs for youth and recreational sports. high school teams cannot gather until after June 30, which marks the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.
Last week, the NJSIAA said it anticipates the summer recess period to begin around July 13. The summer recess period marks when coaches can have in-person contact with the players on their team. Coaches will continue to be limited to virtual contact with their student-athletes until the official start of the summer recess period. Maguire said the NJSIAA expects to have guidelines available to its member schools before June 19.
All sports will have to abide by health and safety protocols including screening for athletes, coaches and staffs, limited equipment sharing and strong requirements for disinfecting and sanitizing equipment.
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