August 14, 2020

Illinois adds restrictions for recreational sports, bans games for some as coronavirus cases rise

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CHICAGO —  Governor JB Pritzker introduced new restrictions for recreational sports leagues in Illinois Wednesday, as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise across the state.

“This is a situation where the toughest choice is also the safest choice,” Pritzker said.

New restrictions for youth and adult recreational sports in Illinois will be put in place starting August 15, including school-based sports, clubs, recreational leagues, and park district programs based on three different “risk levels” determined by the amount of contact between athletes. Professional and collegiate sports will not be included in the restrictions.

“Some sports carry an inherently higher risk of exposure because of direct contact, like football and wrestling, while others have a lower risk, like golf and bowling,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “As we learn to coexist with COVID-19, we must be smart and measured in how we go about it.”

In announcing the restrictions, Pritzker pointed to suburban communities like Lake Zurich which are seeing an outbreak in coronavirus cases and canceled sports practices after multiple students tested positive.

According to the IDPH, 1,393 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 coronavirus-related deaths have been confirmed over the past day. The statewide positivity rate from July 22-28 remains at 3.8 percent, while 95 percent of confirmed cases are believed to have recovered.

“We are seeing what much of the country is seeing in terms of a resurgence in cases,” Ezike said. 

The restrictions are broken into four different “levels,” which will be assigned to sports based on whether they’re considered low, medium or high risk.

Starting August 15, only “low-risk” sports like tennis, baseball and golf will be allowed to engage in competitive play, although it will be limited to games inside their conference or region outlined in the “Restore Illinois” plan. State or league championships will be allowed for low-risk sports.

Sports which are considered “medium-risk” like basketball and soccer will be limited to inter-team scrimmages only. “High-risk” sports like football will be limited to no-contact practices and training only.

Tournaments, out-of-conference/league play, multi-team meets and out-of-state play are not allowed for any sports under the current guidelines, as they’re included under the “Level 4” restrictions. Officials said based on the spread of coronavirus across the state, the restrictions given to each risk level could change.

Ezike said as of Wednesday, six regions established in the state’s “Restore Illinois” plan have seen increases in test positivity rates for seven of the past 10 days, and hospital admissions rose slightly.

The positivity rate of the Metro East region outside St. Louis was at 7.6 percent as of July 26, according to state figures, near the “failsafe” level of 8 percent where additional mitigation measures would be put in place.

“The virus doesn’t recognize county lines, it doesn’t recognize any regional borders,” Ezike said. “More counties are heading towards a warning level status.”

Pritzker warned rising positivity rates across the state could point towards a “reversal” in progress made in Illinois, and called on residents to follow health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It does not take long at all for a trajectory of success to turn into rising hospitalizations and deaths,” Pritzker said.

Insofar as what restrictions could mean for the school year, Pritzker said schools will still be able to make those decisions for themselves.