school sports

Suffolk to Be 1st County in NY to Require Mandatory COVID Testing of Student Athletes

High-risk sports and recreational activities in the county are scheduled to resume effective Feb. 1.

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What to Know

  • Suffolk County revealed its plans on how to safely resume high-risk school sports and get student athletes back on the fields and courts, all while containing the spread of COVID-19, with testing becoming the central focus.
  • Suffolk County will be the first in state to require mandatory weekly testing of student athletes for high-risk sports.
  • High-risk sports and recreational activities in the county are scheduled to resume effective Feb. 1.

Suffolk County revealed its plans on how to safely resume high-risk school sports and get student athletes back on the fields and courts, all while containing the spread of COVID-19, with testing becoming the central focus.

High-risk sports and recreational activities in the county are scheduled to resume effective Feb. 1.

According to the county, given that testing has become "the most powerful tools" when it comes to halting the spread of the virus, Suffolk County will be the first in state to require mandatory weekly testing of student athletes for high-risk sports and coaches. These rapid tests will be free of charge and administered weekly by the school nurses.

High-risk sports include:

  • Competitive cheerleading student athletes
  • Boys/girls basketball
  • Wrestling
  • Boys/girls volleyball
  • Football
  • Boys lacrosse

Suffolk County will receive an initial 20,000 rapid tests from the state.

In accordance with CDC and New York State guidance, if a student participating in high-risk sports is found to be COVID-19 positive, they will be required to quarantine for 10 days. Additionally, their coach will be required to provide information to the county's Health Department for contact tracing.

Suffolk County Department of Health guidelines for sports teams to safely play include:  

  • Taking the temperatures of players and coaches before practices and games; 
  • Masks should be worn whenever possible, especially when on the sidelines and not playing; 
  • Enforce social distancing when not playing; 
  • Require hand washing or sanitizing of hands before and after practices and games, and after sharing equipment; 
  • Minimize equipment sharing, with players encouraged to bring their own equipment. Individuals are also required to bring their own water bottles and not share food; 
  • Maintain attendance logs of players, staff, and coaches with contact information;
  • Play in smart spaces. Always outdoors if possible. Use large and well-ventilated spaces for play; 
  • Consider dividing larger teams into smaller groups and stagger practices with different times or days;
  • Limit those individuals not needed in practice from attending.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services notes that resuming these activities does not mean that they are safe or without risk. Those participating in such activities should assess their individual situation to decide whether to participate. Those with underlying health conditions should talk to their doctor. School districts may also opt out from resuming higher risk sports and recreational activities.

Many of those same sports and rules will go into effect for Nassau County as well, although the county won't be requiring the weekly tests. Spectators will still not be allowed.

The decision there has left some questioning why now, with a COVID infection rate much higher than it was when the fall sports season was canceled, has it been deemed safe to play suddenly. When asked, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said that they "have to follow state guidance" when it comes to openings and closures.

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