State officials announce the return of basketball

(The Center Square) – State officials have given the green light for Illinois high school basketball to return.

The Illinois High School Association reportedly met with representatives from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office Friday morning. Later in the day, the Illinois Department of Public health announced that all regions in the state that reach Phase 4 of COVID-19 mitigations can go forward with the basketball season.

As of Friday, Region 3 in west central Illinois, Region 5 in southern Illinois, and Region 6 which is east central Illinois are in Phase 4. Several other regions are getting close to reaching the COVID-19 metrics needed to return to Phase 4.

In order for regions to go back to Phase 4, there are three requirements. The test positivity rate must be below 6.5% for 3 consecutive days, hospital and ICU beds must have an availability greater than 20% for three straight days, and there can’t be an increase in COVID-19 patients in the hospital for 7 of 10 days.

IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said she knows how important sports can be for young people.

“I take very seriously the value that recreational outlets offer to the physical and the mental health of our children,” Ezike said. “I also take very seriously the need to protect them.”

The IHSA announced earlier this week that cheerleading, boys swimming and girls gymnastics were close to returning, but basketball was not included. Contact days for spring sports like volleyball and soccer begin Monday.

Ezike said players and families still cannot let their guard down when it comes to the pandemic.

“I hope that we will all use the experience that we have garnered as we go forward so that we don’t see another surge and go back into higher levels of mitigation that would suspend these levels of play,” she said.

The IHSA revised its sports calendar for this school year after football and other fall sports were postponed by the governor last summer.

The new schedule moved football and other sports to the spring season. The IHSA board is expected to revise that schedule at a meeting next week.

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