IHSA, State Health Officials Meet But Prep Sports Still on Hold

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD.WYZZ-TV) — The good news is the Illinois High School Association finally got a meeting with representatives from the governor’s official and state health department.

The bad news: there’s still no timeline for a return to high school sports.

The IHSA met virtually with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz, and IDPH Chief of Staff Justin DeWitt Wednesday night, according to an IHSA statement released Thursday night.

“We appreciate the dialogue with state leadership and believe it is crucial that it continue moving forward,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “We understand that the state faces shifting priorities as it continues to fight the pandemic, while also beginning the distribution of the vaccine.”

High school sports have been on hold in the state of Illinois since Nov. 20 when Tier 3 Mitigations were implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Illinois Elementary School Association was also part of the meeting which, according to the IHSA statement was used “to reintroduce recommended mitigations from the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), as well as to seek understanding on any preliminary insight IDPH may have related to the return of interscholastic sports.”

The IHSA also asked IDPH leadership to review the risk levels of all remaining sports, with consideration for lowering some sports from their current risk levels, according to the statement.

Winter sports were scheduled to begin in November and finish in February so as to not conflict with the fall sports of football, boys soccer and girls volleyball which were moved to the spring because of the pandemic.

“Our Board of Directors is going to have difficult decisions to make regarding the seasons’ for medium- and high-risk sports very soon,” said Anderson. “With no specific IDPH timeline or statistical benchmarks established for the return of sports and the calendar shrinking, putting together a puzzle that allows for all sports to be played becomes increasingly improbable. We continue to urge all residents of our state to be diligent in their efforts to adhere to safety guidelines, as a lower positivity rate remains the key to athletics returning.”

The IHSA Board of Directors are scheduled to meet on January 13.

“We believe that there is both data and science that validates the idea that we can safely conduct sports,” said Anderson. “We have seen it work in other states and believe it can in Illinois if we utilize the mitigations provided by IDPH and the IHSA SMAC. Students are already leaving or participating out-of-state on weekends. We believe that competing for their high school remains the safest venue for participation.”

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