Pritzker, IDPH put high school basketball season on holdMichael O’Brienon October 27, 2020 at 9:33 pm

Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions last Wednesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions last Wednesday. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Basketball is among a group of winter sports that has been put “on hold” by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Basketball is among a group of winter sports that has been put “on hold” by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“As with sports in the fall, nothing is ‘cancelled,’ just put on hold until we’re through the thick of this pandemic,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Pritzker announced the decision at a press conference on Tuesday that appeared to blindside the Illinois High School Association, which is holding a special board meeting on Wednesday, after which it was scheduled to make an announcement on winter sports.

“We know that this virus is of most concern when people are indoors with high contact, especially in vigorous situations that bring about heavy breathing like in wrestling, hockey and basketball,” Pritzker said. “Sports played at a distance like tennis can be played and sports that can be modified to have virtual elements, like dance for example, offer more leeway in this moment and the IDPH guidance reflects that.”

Basketball practices were scheduled to start on Nov. 16 and games on Nov. 30. There is now no target date for either to begin.

“This isn’t the news anyone wants to hear,” Pritzker said. “And it is not news that I want to deliver but this virus remains dangerous and deadly to kids and parents and especially grandparents and this is the best thing we can do for the health and safety of families under the current circumstances. Life in a pandemic is hard for everyone.”

The IDPH’s new guidelines raise basketball from a medium risk sport to a higher risk sport. That means competitive games can’t be played until the state reaches Level 3 of the IDPH’s guidelines. Higher risk sports are currently at Level 1. The IDPH has not detailed how the state moves between levels and the current level hasn’t change since the guidelines were first released in late July.

Moving basketball up to the higher risk level likely puts an end to club basketball showcase events and evaluation camps like the Pangos event that was held in La Grange last weekend with players from 10 states.

The IHSA, which expected to announce the news on winter sports after its board meeting on Wednesday, rushed out a statement about a half an hour after Pritzker’s announcement.

“About 15 minutes prior to Governor Pritzker’s press conference today, we were alerted that the [IDPH] has elevated the sport of basketball from a medium risk level to a high risk level,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “We remain considerate of the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases in our state. However, in our meeting with IDPH on Friday, we felt that we presented multiple options that would allow for basketball to be conducted safely by IHSA schools this winter, many of which are being utilized in neighboring states who plan to play high school basketball. Despite that setback, there is some positive news, as IDPH accepted the IHSA’s mitigations related to other sports, including cheerleading and dance, allowing them to move from a medium risk level to a low risk level. We will hold our special Board of Directors meeting on October 28 as scheduled, where our board will provide direction on the other winter sports, as well as discuss the IHSA sports schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.”

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