The Erie County Department of Health has fielded calls and emails from school districts, coaching staff and parents of youth athletes related to travel sports teams. More recently, ECDOH received reports from concerned parents and school districts about independent youth sports teams scheduling or participating in out-of-state games, tournaments, scrimmages and other activities.
Sports programs that operate as an organization in New York state are required to follow NY Forward guidelines. The guidelines for sports and recreation are very clear on disallowing travel: Competitive tournaments of multiple games, meets, matches or scrimmages requiring travel are not allowed. This applies for lower-risk, moderate-risk and high-risk sports, and would include activities where a team or individual is only participating in a single event.
“Coaches and parents who choose to allow children to travel out of state for sports events are putting our school districts and community at risk for travel-based COVID-19 cases,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said.
The New York State Travel Advisory includes more than 40 states and territories that are currently experiencing a high degree of community transmission of COVID-19. Though that list does not include Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Connecticut, those states do meet the metrics to qualify for inclusion on that list. ECDOH strongly recommends that Erie County residents and youth sports teams avoid travel to those high-risk areas. School districts are able to exclude students and staff from in-school settings based on travel history. Individuals who travel to those states are required to quarantine for 14 days from their last date of travel in those states.
Though the NYS Travel Advisory states that travel through those designated states for a limited duration (i.e., less than 24 hours) does not require quarantine upon returning to New York State, sports activities are not included in that exception. “Sports activities out of state are considered non-essential, and involve contact with people from many different areas. Those are exactly the types of activities that lead to COVID-19 transmission and we strongly encourage people to avoid them,” Dr. Burstein said. “Spending a day or a weekend playing in a sports tournament is not the same as driving through a state and stopping at a few rest areas on the highway.”
Complaints about youth sports travel teams that are planning to travel or have travelled to out-of-state tournaments can be sent to the NY Pause Enforcement Task Force at 1-833-789-0470. Reports about individuals who are returning to Erie County from a state on the Travel Advisory list can be submitted to ECDOH at www.erie.gov/covid19/travelform.