Multiple County Health Departments Rule Against Wrestling Programs, Niagara County Included

WESTERN NEW YORK – The leaders of the five county health departments (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara) in Western New York (WNY) are providing the following joint statement related to wrestling programs. This announcement follows updates to the NY Forward Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation on January 22, 2021.

“Revisions to the guidance relaxed certain restrictions on higher-risk sports, including wrestling. Wrestling involves participants sparring in very close physical proximity for extended periods of time, which significantly increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Similarly, masks, which are a method of COVID-19 risk reduction, are not recommended to be worn during wrestling because of a choking hazard.

“Further, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report1 (MMWR) published January 26, 2021 summarized a large COVID outbreak associated with a wrestling tournament in December 2020. Through a case investigation that spanned three counties and included diagnostic testing of contacts, the report noted hundreds of contacts, significant losses of in-person learning days, suspension of all winter indoor and outdoor high school athletics in one county, and one death resulting from multiple exposures during this wrestling tournament.

“The circumstances outlined in that MMWR brief could easily be replicated at any WNY wrestling tournament. In the interests of limiting risk and protecting the health of athletes, their classmates , households, and coaching and teaching staff within schools, WNY health department leaders strongly recommend that interscholastic, intramural and amateur wrestling teams and leagues cancel or postpone their winter 2021 seasons to a later date, when community transmission of COVID-19 is significantly lower. Coaching staff and parents should consider promoting individual training and distanced group exercises.”

  • Tyler Shaw, Allegany County Department of Health
  • Kevin Watkins, MD, Cattaraugus County Department of Health
  • Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Gale Burstein, MD, Erie County Department of Health
  • Daniel Stapleton, Niagara County Department of Health