High Risk Sports Testing Update


Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today released updated guidance for high school sports from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. Based on the decreasing positivity rate for COVID-19 in Suffolk County, the increasing rate of vaccination, and the eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine having been expanded to those 16 years of age and over, as well as the ability to practice and play outdoors, mandatory testing for high-risk sports is no longer required.

While testing is no longer required, the Health Department recommends weekly testing and encourages athletic programs to develop opportunities for their student athletes 16 and over to get vaccinated. The County will continue to provide test kits to those districts that request them for Boys Lacrosse – the only high-risk sport involved in the Spring season. Since February 1, the County has distributed 80,000 test kits for high-risk sports. Additionally, the County Executive’s Office and Health Department are coordinating with the Suffolk County Police Department’s MedCAT unit to pilot a vaccine clinic for student athletes and other student groups next week, beginning with Center Moriches School District.

“As a parent, I understood just how important it was to get our kids back out on the field, and over the last few months our student athletes and coaches have proven that with the right protocols in place, all sports can be played in a safe manner,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “From the onset of this pandemic, we have followed the data, and with the lowest positivity rate we have seen in months and increasing vaccinations, the health department will no longer be requiring weekly testing for student athletes. Ultimately, the vaccine is the tool that will enable us to win this war, and we will be working with our local districts to ensure student have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

In January, County Executive Bellone announced a comprehensive plan that would allow for sports deemed as high-risk to resume with common sense safety measures and guidelines in place. The County’s plan, which was developed in close consultation with the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and Section XI, has allowed for approximately 21,500 student athletes to participate in their respective high-risk sports. On average there are more than 60,000 student athletes participating in various high school sports during a normal school year.

Suffolk County Department of Health guidelines to ensure safe play include:

  • Taking the temperatures of players and coaches prior to practices and games.
  • Masks should be worn whenever possible, especially when on the sidelines not engaged in play.
  • Enforce social distancing when not engaged in play.
  • Require hand washing or sanitizing of hands before and after practices and games, and after sharing equipment.
  • Minimize equipment sharing. Players should bring their own equipment; have individual water bottles, and no sharing of food.
  • Maintain attendance logs of players, staff, and coaches. Attendance logs should include 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 essential to the practice from attending.
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