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Amid Coronavirus Concerns, It's Still "Game On" For State Tournaments

BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) - While health officials continue to monitor reports of new cases of the coronavirus causing COVID-19 illness, amateur sports officials are sticking to their plans to host state tournaments this month, some of which begin this weekend in Western New York.

The New York State Amateur Hockey Association is hosting youth state championship tournaments beginning Friday, March 6 with four girls' age divisions competing at Northtown Center at Amherst, Cornerstone Arena in Lockport and Hyde Park Ice Pavilion in Niagara Falls. The girls' divisions will continue their tournament through the weekend. Other youth divisions are scheduled to compete in those venues the following two weekends.

Joe Baudo, NYSAHA's president, says they are advising coaches to adhere to the recommendations offered by health officials, including the frequent washing of hands, cleaning of equipment and surfaces, avoiding touching one's eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, and avoiding contact with anyone who may feel ill. There is also one other slight alteration NYSAHA is recommending to participating teams.

"One of the things we will recommend is instead of doing a handshake line, which we always do, that we do a fist-bump line," Baudo said. "Basically, the players will leave their gloves on and fist-bump each other as they go through the line, instead of taking gloves off and shaking hands. Just some minor things that we can have them do to help make sure everybody stays healthy and safe."

Also planning to move ahead with state tournaments is the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. State championships have already been held for several sports, including wrestling, gymnastics, and girls' hockey. Other tournaments set to run March 6 through 8 include boys swimming and diving in Long Island, competitive cheerleading in Rochester, boys and girls rifle in West Point, and indoor track and field in Staten Island.

In a memo released this week to the executive directors of NYSPHSAA's sections, state executive director Dr. Robert Zayas wrote that no scheduling changes are under consideration for the time being, but individual schools were urged to work with local health departments as new information developed on the spread of the virus.