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New state COVID guidelines boost hopes for start of ‘higher risk’ sports

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PEORIA (WEEK) - High school sports in Illinois are closer to making a comeback, as Gov. JB Pritzker announced Friday that any region that reaches Phase 4 can bring back all youth sports with some conditions.

Region 2, which includes Peoria and McLean Counties, has a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 6.7%, slightly higher than what it needs to be for Phase 4.

Higher risk sports including basketball and football can be played only within a school's region, so Peoria teams can't play schools in Springfield, which are in Region 3. However, Peoria squads would be allowed to play Bloomington or Quad Cities' teams, which are in Region 2.

This means athletes in higher risk sports can't participate in statewide tournaments. "Lower risk" sports can conduct statewide tournaments.

Once Region 2 enters Phase 4, higher risk sports will need to practice 12 days before competition starts. Lower risk sports need just seven days of practice before their first competitions.

All teams will have to wear masks in practice and in competition and there has to be social distancing.

The number of spectators allowed to attend sports events increases to 50 under Phase 4.

"While regions in the state continue to move toward Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan, the risk of a resurgence, particularly with new variants such as the U.K. variant remains serious," the governor's office said in a news release.

"Should data show regions trending in the wrong direction, based on the established mitigation metrics, regions could once again find themselves in a higher tier with increased measures," the governor's office said.

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