Chris Johnston speeds down the St. Lawrence River during last year’s Bassmaster Elite tournament, looking for a location to cast a line. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CLAYTON — Jefferson County officials are confident they’ll be able to keep Thursday’s Bassmaster Elite fishing competition in Clayton safe, and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The event was initially planned to be hosted in Waddington — in St. Lawrence County — as it’s been for the past five years. St. Lawrence County health officials were concerned that the event could spark a COVID-19 outbreak, and weren’t able to mediate county health regulations with the reality of hosting the event.

The initial plan put together by county health officials assumed anglers would be in Cayuga Lake for another Bassmaster tournament from July 14 to 17. They would have been tested twice before the Waddington tournament even began. When the Cayuga Lake tournament was canceled, that buffer period disappeared and St. Lawrence County officials lost confidence that the event could be handled, according to their guidelines.

“It is certainly disappointing that we are not going to have it, but rather than having people get sick, we are erring on the side of caution,” St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, told the Times in early July.

Jefferson County officials believe that they will be able to safely host the event in Clayton.

“If our county and communities cannot deal with an outbreak or spike then we have to rethink even being open,” said Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, in an email to the Times on July 17. “That said, I am confident we will meet the challenge this current issue brings.”

In that email, Mr. Gray included a bulleted list of precautions and considerations being taken to keep the tournament and the community safe.

In the list, Mr. Gray specified that only approximately 180 people will be coming to Clayton for the event, and no spectators will be allowed. Instead, viewers may watch the tournament on ESPN2 from home.

All competitors will be subject to New York’s professional sports travel restrictions, which are less stringent than the state’s travel restrictions for most travelers from hotspot states.

The restrictions for professional sports require that all players, coaches or support staff coming to the state get tested for COVID-19 within 24 hours of arriving, monitor themselves for any symptoms, and “avoid extended periods in public” as much as possible for at least 14 days after their arrival.

“Individuals from a state with significant rates of transmission of COVID-19 to New York State for a professional sports activity... may travel to the extent necessary to participate in the professional sports activity, but must otherwise remain quarantined, and avoid all public places and settings, while in New York State,” reads the state’s interim guidance for professional sports teams.

Travelers from states without significant community spread are not required to quarantine, get tested or avoid public places when they arrive in the state under current guidelines.

“The reason for the difference in traveling restrictions (for professional sports) is primarily the testing requirement and in this case everyone associated with the tournament is required to be tested upon arrival and Bassmasters has arranged a testing site to be located in Clayton,” Mr. Gray’s list reads.

According to Mr. Gray, besides being tested initially upon arrival, the anglers will have their contact information verified to make contact tracing efforts easier and more successful. They will also answer daily screening questions through an application developed and used specifically for the tournament.

The anglers will also have “local ambassadors,” to run any errands they may need handled while in Clayton, to minimize their interactions with the community.

According to Mr. Gray’s email, county hospitals are currently well under capacity in their acute care and intensive care units, so the county health system is not at risk of being overtaxed by a potential outbreak.

“Our community needs to function while the virus exists, and hosting the tournament in a safe and responsible manner will demonstrate our ability to manage an open economy and the virus simultaneously,” Mr. Gray said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Recommended for you

(1) comment


Thank you, Mr. Gray, for showing common sense and being cautiously optimistic about the ability to have an open economy while also managing the Covid pandemic. Hope the tournament is a great success!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.