As Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health urged state residents to limit gatherings and stay home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the IHSA also took action Tuesday.

The IHSA announced it will temporarily pause its winter sports season for low-risk sports, which were allowed to start with practices Monday. Those sports are boys and girls bowling, cheer, dance, boys swimming and diving and girls gymnastics.

Wrestling, a high-risk sport, already has been moved to the summer season (May 3 through June 26), while boys and girls basketball, also now a high-risk sport, remain in question.

The IHSA is considering still playing basketball in an abbreviated winter season or moving it to the spring (Feb. 16 through May 1) or summer season. The winter season was supposed to start Monday and run through Feb. 13.

The announcement by Pritzker and the IDPH on Tuesday that the entire state will move to Tier 3 mitigations beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday means all indoor sporting and recreational activities will be paused.

“The simple fact is that COVID-19 is spreading so quickly and so widely, and our hospitals are beginning to experience real strain and at the current infection rate they will be overwhelmed,” Pritzker said Tuesday. “I’m hopeful that by limiting our in-person interactions we will succeed at avoiding a stay-at-home order like we had in the spring.”

The IDPH said that the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and the statewide positivity rate already have surpassed the spring peak.

“The IHSA recognizes that today’s announcement by Gov. Pritzker will temporarily pause the IHSA’s winter sports season,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “We remain optimistic that these new mitigations, coupled with the emergence of a vaccine, will aid in creating participation opportunities in the New Year for IHSA student-athletes in winter, spring and summer sports.”

The IHSA had invited Pritzker, the IDPH, the Illinois State Board of Education and other agencies to a meeting Thursday to discuss the future of Illinois high school sports.

The IHSA will have that meeting, although representatives from the governor’s office and the IDPH will not attend.

“Today’s updated guidance from Gov. Pritzker will aid the [IHSA board of directors] decision-making,” Anderson said. “We have asked Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz and [IDPH director] Dr. Ngozi Ezike to engage with us in the near future so that we can collaborate on developing a plan to safely conduct IHSA sports and activities as soon as possible.

“IHSA schools have been exemplary in adhering to state regulations throughout this pandemic, and we hope that nonschool programs will hold themselves to the same standard as we all put the long-term health and safety of our fellow citizens ahead of short-term athletic competition.”

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