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Confusion continues as Tri-Valley League implements no spectator policy

As the Tri-Valley League announces it will not allow spectators to attend games for member schools citing Oneida County guidelines, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. says County has not made policy prohibiting spectators and is going by previous state guidance of two spectators per student-athlete.

Posted: Oct 20, 2020 9:27 PM
Updated: Oct 21, 2020 12:32 AM

UPDATE (10/20/20 - 9:57 P.M.): Camden school district has announced that following Oneida County Executive Picente's statement regarding the matter, the district will once again be allowing two spectators per player.


WKTV - The Tri-Valley League (TVL), which is made up of nine area schools, announced Tuesday, that it will no longer allow spectators at sporting events.

After NEWSChannel 2 reported that multiple schools in the area sent notices to families within its districts, Monday, an official announcement was made through the TVL, with member schools Whitesboro and Camden sending letters to families indicating the change.

The letters claim that schools received guidance from the Oneida County Health Department (OCHD) stating that there is a regional non-essential gathering limit of 50 people at a single venue at a time, which must be followed at sporting events.

The schools said that the limit includes student-athletes, coaches, officials, and staff members both on the field and around the premesis, making it unfeasible to allow any extra people in as spectators.

Previously, guidance for sports and recreation from the New York State Department of Health and Governor Andrew Cuomo's Office stated that up to two people per student-athlete would be permitted to attend.

According to the school announcements, the OCHD said its current regional limit of 50 people maximum gathering at an event supercedes the two spectator policy from the state.

There does appear to be some inconsistency within the region regarding these policies, however. Central Valley Academy competes in the Tri-Valley League, but is located in Herkimer County.

In addition, Clinton, Oriskany, Holland Patent, Westmoreland, and Sauquoit Valley are located in Oneida County, but compete in the Center State Conference, which has not implemented these same spectator restrictions.

NEWSChannel 2 reached out to Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr., who said that there has been no new guidance put forth by the county, and that it continues to follow the guidance previously enacted from the state.

Following discussions with NEWSChannel 2 and a conference call with state officials, Picente released the following statement:

“To be clear, the rules for how school sporting events are conducted are established by New York State, not Oneida County, and we are bound to follow and enforce whatever is directed. At no time has my office directed that spectators not be allowed at school sporting events, nor could we or would we ever set our own regulations on how these events should be attended.

“Due to confusion with the state guidelines set forth on this matter, my office has received many inquiries from school districts and parents about what is and isn’t allowed. In today’s Mohawk Valley Regional Control Group call, state officials acknowledged that the language used in the school sporting event guidance is flawed, and we are awaiting direct clarification.

“Until we receive that official word from the state, I am advising that school-sponsored sporting events limit their spectators to two per player until further notice, while following all of the social distancing and face covering rules that apply.”

The confusion seems to stem from an additional line within the state guidance for sports and recreation that states: "Responsible Parties must ensure that, among all spectators, no individual group exceeds the gathering limit that is currently in place for the region."

Picente told NEWSChannel 2 that at this time, the County has not applied that to mean that no more than 50 people can be at an outdoor sports venue even though certain non-essential social gatherings are to be limited to 50 people or less.

Essentially, it is the view of Oneida County that the two spectator rule is what schools can follow and is not undone by the "inconsistent" regional limit line.

Picente did say that, ultimately, it is up to each individual school district or league to implement its own policies it deems appropriate, but that a no spectator policy has not come from the county, and will not unless directed to do so by new state guidance.

NEWSChannel 2 has reached out to numerous school officials from districts around the area and continues to await responses.

This story will be updated, stay with NEWSChannel 2 for more.

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