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Mansfield sees worries with football

OBSERVER Photo Despite Superintendent Michael Mansfield’s worries, practice took place in Dunkirk for football this week.

With Chautauqua County classified as a high-risk zone for COVID-19 transmission Monday, local high school football seasons could be in jeopardy.

Dunkirk Superintendent of Schools Mike Mansfield explained at a Board of Education workshop Monday that government guidelines — which, he emphasized, are not mandates, at least not yet — suggest that football be called off in high-risk transmission zones. This is because football is considered a high-risk activity for transmissions, as it involves close, sustained contact with other people.

Other high-risk activities include wrestling, lacrosse, dance and competitive cheerleading. Volleyball was on the high-risk activity list a year ago, but Mansfield said it is now on the moderate-risk list, meaning it could still go on even if COVID transmission rates continue to rise.

When he gave his presentation late Monday afternoon, Mansfield was apparently unaware that Chautauqua County had just entered a high transmission zone. He gave the presentation as if the county was still in a “substantial risk” zone. He called the high-risk designation “the one everybody would not want to see.”

Mansfield began his presentation by stating, “I still can say, no mandates at this point. But I expect there’s some coming.” He said the Erie County Department of Health had just mandated masks for everyone in schools, and added that Gov. Kathy Hochul promised she would do a statewide mandate for them after she took office Tuesday.

The superintendent said meetings to discuss COVID plans with staff and health authorities are ongoing. He said he met with Chautauqua County Department of Health officials, including department head Christine Schuyler, on Friday.

On Tuesday, state Gov. Kathy Hochul said she would make masks mandatory for anyone entering public schools. “None of us want a rerun of last year’s horrors with COVID-19,” she said. “Therefore we will take proactive steps to prevent that from happening.”

He expects to present the board with a document he will send to parents, explaining the district’s COVID protocols, at the Monday, Aug. 30 meeting. The first day of school is set for Tuesday, Sept. 7.

“We’ll try to keep a three-foot distance as much as we can in our classrooms, but it’s not always going to be that way,” Mansfield said. The district currently plans to instruct students in person, five days a week, with remote instruction only offered in special situations.

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