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The New York State Department of Education is recommending schools in areas with high Covid-19 transmission cancel all high-risk sports like wrestling or basketball and extracurricular activities like choir and band unless all participants are vaccinated, according to new health and safety guidance.

The new guidance for reopening schools comes roughly a week after the New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker revealed the department would not issue health and safety guidelines for schools across the state reopening next month. 

“At a time when schools are preparing to reopen and the COVID positivity rate is increasing, we must ensure our schools and districts have the most up-to-date resources and mitigation strategies available to keep our children and school staff safe,” said NYSED Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “Reopening amidst a pandemic for the second consecutive year is truly a daunting task. Our hope is that this guide, coupled with the input of local health officials will help the state’s education community as they prepare for September.”

NYSED’s health and safety guidelines on masking, social distancing, COVID-19 testing and screening are reiterations of current guidance from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Encouraging schools to cancel or host high-risk sports and extracurricular activities online is one of the few instances the state department veers from CDC-issued guidelines. 

NYSED explains in the guidance that the close contact between players in sports like wrestling and the increased exhalation that takes place during activities like choir pose a greater risk of spreading the virus. 

Under current CDC recommendations, students, or any other person, should not participate in close contact or indoor sports with people they do not live with when COVID-19 cases are “extremely high” and hospitalizations and deaths caused by the virus are increasing across the country.

“If you choose to play close-contact or indoor sports, reduce your risk by getting vaccinated when a vaccine is available to you, wearing a mask, playing outside, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and avoiding crowds,” the guidance reads.

This article first appeared on amNY.com

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