41-page document details sports return plan
NEW YORK-As schools get underway this week, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) issued guidance, Friday, Sept. 4 for schools planning to include sports for the fall season. There are 11 member sections in New York state and also individual decisions at each school that can impact how sports will return.
According to the association and in conjunction with the health department, "the ability to participate in sports and recreation activities is determined by a combination of the risk for COVID-19 transmission (1) inherent in the sport or recreation activity itself and (2) associated with the "type of play" (e.g. individual practice vs. game). Sports and recreation activities are categorized by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) as "low" risk, "moderate" risk, and "high" risk."
Lower risk sports and recreation activities are characterized by the greatest ability to maintain physical distance and/or be performed individually; and the greatest ability to avoid touching of shared equipment, clean and disinfect any equipment between uses by different individuals, or not use shared equipment at all. Moderate risk activities have a limited ability to follow the previous list and high-risk sports have the least ability to distance and avoid contact.
The fall season is scheduled to begin on Sept. 21 for low and moderate risk sports (cross country, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, soccer, girls swimming and diving and girls tennis). In addition to practice, games may be played within a section or league until Oct. 19 and then beyond the section or league after that date. Currently, high-risk sports such as cheerleading, football and volleyball will be allowed to practice but not play games at this time. There are also no regional or state championships for fall.
Tentatively, the winter sports season could begin on Nov. 30 and spring sports on March 15. Both of those seasons anticipate state championships to be played according to the NYSPHSAA document.
The athletic association references a NYSDOH document from Aug. 15 in many of the recommendations they give. This includes limiting spectators to no more than two per player. It also says, "Responsible Parties must ensure a distance of at least six feet is maintained among individuals at all times, whether indoor or outdoor, unless safety or the core activity (e.g. practicing, playing) requires a shorter distance. If a shorter distance is required, individuals must wear acceptable face coverings, unless players are unable to tolerate a face covering for the physical activity (e.g. practicing, playing); provided, however, that coaches, trainers, and other individuals who are not directly engaged in physical activity are required to wear a face covering."
There are a number of requirements to limit gatherings of people along with signage to encourage abiding by health guidelines.
There will also be screening based on the health department guidance, "Responsible Parties must implement mandatory health screenings, including temperature checks, of students, faculty, staff, and, where applicable, contractors, vendors, and visitors to identify any individuals who may have COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Specifically, all individuals must have their temperature checked each day. If an individual presents a temperature of greater than 100.0 degrees, the individual must be denied entry into the facility or sent directly to a dedicated area prior to being picked up or otherwise sent home."
School personnel and the coaching staff will be responsible for activities on the sidelines for health compliance according to NYSPHSAA, while the game officials will not. Officials will also be trying to distance from the players and coaches as much as possible. All unnecessary close-contact and meetings will be modified to limit the potential spread of COVID.
Individual guidance for each sport is also available in the document online at http://nysphsaa.org/News-Media/Headline-News/Article/id/9644. The health department regulations can be accessed at https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/SportsAndRecreationMasterGuidance.pdf.
The athletic association is currently seeking further clarification on allowable practice activities for high-risk sports. For example, football right now can only have "no- to low-contact training (e.g., skills development) whereby contact between players may only be incidental and any activities that are specifically designed to promote close physical contact are prohibited."
However, regardless of the sport, if schools have to close because COVID cases, sports will also be suspended until in-person education is resumed.