With coronavirus cases rising across the state, the Winter sports season for New Jersey high school athletics is being pushed back and shortened.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), the governing body over high school athletics in New Jersey, announced on Nov. 19 new start dates for the sport season that was set to get underway Dec. 3.
In its own summarization, the ice hockey end date remains unchanged from their previous guidance, the basketball, fencing and bowling start dates have been pushed into January, a new season (2A) has been created to accommodate swimming and Winter track & field; and wrestling has been moved to Season 3 with girls’ volleyball and gymnastics.
The official start dates, which NJSIAA said are final, for Winter sports are:
- Ice hockey practice begins Dec. 14, competition begins Jan. 4, 2021 and competition ends Feb. 17, 2021.
- Basketball, fencing and bowling practice begins Jan. 11, 2021, competition begins Jan. 26, 2021 and competition ends March 6, 2021.
- Swimming and winter track & field practice begins Feb. 1, 2021, competition begins Feb. 16, 2021 and competition ends March 27, 2021.
- Gymnastics, girls volleyball and wrestling practice begins March 1, 2021, competition begins March 16, 2021 and competition ends April 24, 2021.
The NJSIAA had initially targeted Dec. 3 as a start date for practice and Dec. 21 as a start date for competition in all Winter sports.
All sports will be limited to three games a week, which includes league or conference tournaments, as well as one scrimmage before the season starts. Multi-team, multi-game and invitational events are prohibited. Post-season play may be hosted locally by participating leagues and conferences at their discretion but there will be no NJSIAA sponsored post-season.
NJSIAA adjusted the ice hockey schedule to allow for adequate time between Thanksgiving and the start of the season. But stating they were “cognizant of the fact that many schools have already booked time in hockey rinks (and) to avoid the financial repercussions that come along with rescheduling ice time, hockey will be the one sport that begins practicing prior to the new year.”
For basketball, bowling and fencing, NJSIAA said the delay until Jan. 11, 2021, is to allow member schools to get through the holiday break before student-athletes begin practicing at school facilities.
With the lack of facility availability across the state, the swimming season has been moved to a newly created Season 2A in February 2021. As for track and field, with NJSIAA stated “By February, it is possible that indoor facility capacities will increase, and, as an alternative, better weather may allow for outdoor polar bear meets.”
Wrestling to Season 3
All competition will be limited to two teams only, but this is subject to change. NJSIAA will continue to consult with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) to determine if multi-team or invitational events will be permissible; however, it expects decisions on expanding the scope of participants and/or teams not to be made until closer to the start of the season.
Categorizing wrestling as “the high-risk indoor winter sport,” NJSIAA is postponing wrestling to Season 3. All competition will be limited to two teams only, but this is subject to change, as the governing body NJSIAA will continue to consult with the NJDOH to determine if multi-team or multi-game events will be permissible; however, it expect decisions on expanding the scope of participants and/or teams will not be made until closer to the start of the season.
The post-season dates and structure will follow at a later date, with a hard deadline of April 24, 2021.
NJSIAA’s Sports Advisory Task Force will be releasing the final plans for the Spring sports season by Dec. 11, with expectations the season will most likely extend through the month of June, 2021.
As of Nov. 19, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 293,744 with 4,320 total new cases reported and 34 new deaths, bringing that total to 14,877. The state listed probable deaths at 1,812, bringing the overall total to 16,618.
For North Jersey counties, Bergen had a total of 459 new cases, Essex 401 new cases, Hudson 360 new cases, Passaic 357 new cases and Morris 174 new cases. Sussex and Warren counties both had 52 new cases.
State officials noted 28 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,961, followed by Bergen at 1,850, Hudson with 1,394, Passaic at 1,149, Morris at 707, Sussex at 162 and Warren with 160.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 246, Essex has 230, Hudson has 158, Morris at 147, Passaic at 144, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Nov. 14 was 10.9%. By region, the North has a rate of 11.1%, Central at 10.0% and the South at 12.2%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 1.42 from 1.43 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 2,471 patients are hospitalized; by region, there were 1,203 in the North, 701 in the Central and 567 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 456 are in intensive care units and 216 on ventilators, while 325 patients were discharged.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 31,561, followed by Bergen at 30,666, Hudson at 28,090, Middlesex at 27,159, Passaic at 26,032, Union at 25,235, Ocean at 19,393, Monmouth at 17,725, Camden at 15,830, Morris at 11,760, Mercer at 11,865, Burlington at 11,225, Somerset at 8,058, Gloucester at 7,589, Atlantic at 6,920, Cumberland at 4,583, Sussex at 2,209, Warren at 2,152, Hunterdon at 2,119, Cape May at 1,452 and Salem at 1,425.
Another 696 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 56 outbreaks involving 239 cases have been reported in 18 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with five new outbreaks involving 47 cases recorded. For North Jersey, Bergen County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 19 cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases, Warren County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases and Passaic County has two confirmed outbreaks with 19 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 275 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 5,059 of the cases, broken down between 2,531 residents and 2,528 staff.
Cumulatively, 921 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 26,285 residents and 15,029 staff, for a total of 41,314 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,269 on Nov. 19. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,897 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths.