WATERTOWN — Winter high-risk sports competition for Jefferson County schools may begin sooner than expected.
The Jefferson County Board of Legislators released a statement Thursday revising the guidance for when high-risk winter sports can begin competing. Effective Feb. 22 — the conclusion of winter break — the Jefferson County schools participating in high-risk interscholastic sports can begin competing against one another once the positivity rate drops below 6%.
The initial guidance, which was agreed upon by the superintendents and the Jefferson County Public Health Service, required a 14-day rolling average of positive cases to drop below 4%.
“The decision is in consideration of the downward trend of several indicators,” the statement reads, “such as, the number of new cases, positivity rate and the improved trend of (rate of transmission).”
Watertown, Indian River, Carthage, South Jefferson, Immaculate Heart Central and Sackets Harbor all began practicing high-risk winter sports Feb. 8. General Brown and LaFargeville officials said they would re-evaluate whether to play high-risk winter sports once the infection rate improved considerably.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Jan. 22 that the state Department of Health has cleared high-risk sports competition, the 14-day rolling average positivity rate in Jefferson County was at 9.4%. As of Thursday, the county’s current positivity rate was 6%.
In the statement, Scott Gray, chairman of the county Board of Legislators, noted how the rate of transmission in the county has also been improving.
State guidance for high-risk sports still applies as does the additional guidance released by county public health service. That guidance states that all athletic competition and practice in a school must cease if that school is 100% remote, face coverings are required and no spectators are permitted at indoor sporting events.
Once that positivity rate drops below 6%, schools are cleared to begin. Jefferson County is leaving the ability to pause athletic activity up to each school. Much like in-person learning, the schools will decide for themselves if and when athletics in their district need to be shut down.