Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf released preliminary return-to-play guidelines for professional, collegiate, high school and recreational and amateur sports last week as many counties in south-central Pennsylvania and across the state enter the “green phase” of his reopening plan.
According to the release, this guidance is preliminary and will be updated as more public health data and other information is available. Sports organizations and teams may only conduct in-person operations if they are able to do so in accordance with all applicable guidance.
Pre-K to 12 school sports under the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) and the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PISAA) are permitted to resume in counties designated in the yellow and green phases.
The decision to resume sports-related activities, including conditioning, practices and games, is the discretion of a school entity’s governing body. Each school entity must develop and adopt an Athletics Health and Safety Plan aligning to the PDE Preliminary Guidance for Phased Reopening of Pre-K to 12 Schools prior to conducting sports-related activities with students.
Any sports-related activities in yellow or green phased counties must adhere to the gathering limitations set forth by the Governor’s Plan for Phased Reopening (25 in yellow, 250 in green) and the facility as a whole may not exceed 50 percent of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law. During the yellow and green phases of reopening, sports-related activities at the PK-12 level are limited to student athletes, coaches, officials and staff only. The addition of visitors and spectators will be contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities.
Local political units and school districts may impose more stringent requirements than those contained in this guidance. In such instances, businesses must adhere to this guidance as well as any other requirements imposed by the local political units. Teams and organizations should contact their local political subdivision to discuss their plan to resume play and to notify them of their intention to resume play.
To conduct games and practices, organizations and teams authorized to conduct in-person activities pursuant to this guidance must adhere to the following:
-- Coaches and league officials must review and consider the CDC guidance on consideration for youth sports to modify practices and games to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. This includes focusing on individual skill building versus competition and limiting contact in close-contact sports.
-- The community, league, or team must designate a primary point of contact for all questions related to COVID-19, and all parents, athletes, officials, and coaches must be provided the person’s contact information.
-- The community, league, or team must develop a plan of action in the event an athlete, coach, or official falls ill, make the plan publicly available, and explain it to the entire sport community.
-- The community, league, or team must educate all athletes, staff and families about the symptoms of COVID-19 and when to stay home. Athletes also should be educated on proper hand washing and sanitizing.
-- Coaching staff and other adult personnel should wear face coverings (masks or face shields) at all times, unless doing so jeopardizes their health.
-- Coaches and athletes must maintain appropriate social distancing at all times possible, including in the field of play, locker rooms, sidelines, dugouts, benches, and workout areas. During down time, athletes and coaches should not congregate.
-- Coaches and athletic staff must screen and monitor athletes for symptoms prior to and during games and practices. If individuals participating in sporting activities show symptoms, have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, or are sick, they must be sent home.
-- All athletes, coaches, and officials must bring their own water and drinks to team activities. Team water coolers for sharing through disposable cups are not allowed. Fixed water fountains should not be used.
-- Activities that increase the risk of exposure to saliva must not be allowed including chewing gum, spitting, licking fingers and eating sunflower seeds.
-- Avoid shaking hands, fist bumps, or high fives before, during or after games and practices. Limit unnecessary physical contact with teammates, other athletes, coaches, officials, and spectators.
-- Whenever possible, equipment and other personal items should be separated and not shared. If equipment must be shared, all equipment should be properly disinfected between users.
-- If multiple games are to be held at the same facility, adequate time shall be scheduled between contests to allow for facilities to be cleaned and disinfected, and to minimize interaction between athletes. Sports complexes with multiple fields may operate simultaneous games or practices on fields within a complex only if social distancing can be maintained.
-- Concession stands or other food must adhere to the Guidance for Businesses in the Restaurant Industry.
To operate games or practice, organizations and teams that are otherwise permitted to conduct in-person activities pursuant to this guidance are encouraged to do the following:
-- In counties in the Yellow Phase of Reopening, indoor training or sports may only be conducted by organizations subject to supervision or regulation of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association or National Collegiate Athletic Associations, and only in accordance with guidance provided by those governing bodies. Start by limiting games, scrimmages, and matches to teams in your region first. Expand beyond regional play if cases continue to stay low.
-- Adult athletes are encouraged to wear face coverings when they are not engaged in a sporting activity, unless doing so jeopardizes their health.
-- Coaches should create a back-up staffing plan which should include cross-training staff and coaches and training all coaches and officials on safety protocols.
-- Limit cash transactions to the extent possible; find alternative ways to charge admission and pay for concessions.
-- Create protocols to limit entrance and exit traffic, designating specific entry to and exits from facilities. Establish protocols to ensure staggered pick up and drop off for practice and events and ensure that athletes are not congregating while awaiting pick up and to ensure congregation or crowding does not occur on drop off. Pickups and drop offs should remain outside. Parents should not enter the facility.
For caregivers, spectators
-- Seating areas, including bleachers, must adhere to social distancing requirements of at least 6 feet of spacing for anyone not in the same household. To assist with proper social distancing, areas should be clearly marked.
-- Adults should wear face coverings (masks or face shields) at all times.
-- Caregivers or spectators should not enter the field of play or bench areas.
-- Nonessential visitors, spectators, and volunteers should be limited when possible. Parents should refrain from attending practices, or volunteering to assist with coaching.
-- Caregivers and coaches should assess levels of risk based on individual athletes on the team who may be at a higher risk for severe illness.
-- Caregivers should monitor their children for symptoms prior to any sporting event. Children and athletes who are sick or showing symptoms must stay home.