Put me in, coach, I’m ready for J&J.
Public school athletes will need a vaccine to play several high-risk school sports, city officials announced last Friday.
The policy will make vaccination required for the roughly 20,000 students and staff participating in high-risk Public School Athletic League sports this year, including football and volleyball in the fall.
The move stems from state guidance, which recommended that “high-risk sports and extracurricular activities should be virtual or canceled in areas of high community transmission unless all participants are fully vaccinated.”
A memo circulated by the city Department of Education clarified that winter high-risk sports include basketball and wrestling, and spring sports include lacrosse, rugby and the cheerleading-based sport known as stunt. Vaccination will also be required for bowling because it takes place in spaces that require vaccination even though it is not itself high-risk. Fully vaccinated participants can remove their masks while engaging in high-risk PSAL activities held outdoors, the memo said.
“Vaccinations are our passport out of this pandemic and this vaccine mandate will ensure everyone on high-risk teams are protected and able to compete,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter in a statement.
Emma Steele, a volleyball player at High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture in Ozone Park, said that she had already been vaccinated but the announcement did lead to a conversation among several players on her team who were hesitant. She spoke with her teammates about the importance of the vaccine not just for their health, but for that of all those they compete with in an indoors setting and of their coach, who is pregnant.
“We changed a couple of their minds and couple of them started getting vaccinated,” Steele said.
Participants in fall high-risk sports are required to get their first dose of the vaccine by the first day of competitive play, which varies by sport. The first day of competitive play for football is Sept. 3. The first day of competitive play for volleyball is Sept. 27. Winter and spring PSAL participants have until the beginning of their seasons to be fully vaccinated.
Around 57 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds in the city have at least one dose, the DOE reported. Families can go to vaccinefinder.nyc.gov to find a convenient vaccination site. Additionally, mobile vaccination sites are visiting schools and PSAL conditioning sites across the city this fall.
The DOE recently created a Covid-19 vaccination portal for all staff to log their vaccination status. It is now making that website available to families at vaccine.schools.nyc.