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Pre-K to 12 Athletics Health and Safety Planning Guide

Issued June 16, 2020

Sections within this guide (select a section title below to quickly navigate to that part of the guide):

Significance of Red, Yellow, and Green Phases for Pre-K to 12 Sports in Pennsylvania

Pre-K to 12 (PK-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, in alignment with the PDE Preliminary Guidance for Phased Reopening of Pre-K to 12 Schools and the CDC Considerations for Youth Sports.

The decision to resume sports-related activities, including conditioning, practices and games, is within 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. The plan must include the provisions of this guidance, be approved by the local governing body of the school entity and be posted on the school entity's publicly available website. The plan does not need to be submitted to DOH or PDE.

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% 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.

Guidance Applicable to All Sporting Events

Local school entities may impose more stringent requirements than those contained in this guidance. To conduct games and practices 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 becomes 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. (See "Considerations" in table below.)
  • 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 and 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.  Each individual game or practice at a complex must adhere to the gathering occupancy limits (25 in yellow, 250 in green), and the facility as a whole may not exceed 50% of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law.  
  • 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 (PIAA) or National Collegiate Athletic Associations (NCAA), 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.
  • 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.

This guidance is preliminary; as more public health information is available, the administration may work with impacted entities to release further guidance which could impact fall, winter, or spring seasons.

Athletics Health and Safety Plan Considerations

Athletics Health and Safety Plans will serve as the local guidelines for all sports activities as schools reopen. The Athletics Health and Safety Plans developed for each school should be tailored to the unique needs of each school and should be created in consultation with local health agencies and PIAA guidelines. Given the dynamic nature of the pandemic, plans should incorporate sufficient flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. The table below provides a list of possible considerations for each requirement. It is not expected that every plan addresses all considerations but is to be used to generate possible solutions for each requirement.

Teams and organizations should contact their respective leagues to discuss their plans and intentions to resume play.

Plan Requirement Possible Considerations

Identification of a school "primary point of contact" for all questions and concerns related to COVID-19

 

  • Designate a primary point of contact for all questions related to athletics and COVID-19 implications.
  • Include licensed/certified athletic trainers in plan development and implementation.
  • Ensure all coaches, staff, officials, and families know who this person is and how to contact them.
  • Be aware of state or local regulatory agency policies related to group gatherings to determine if events can be held.
Steps to protect student athletes and staff at higher risk for severe illness
  • Establish and maintain communication with local and state authorities to determine current mitigation levels in your community.
  • Adopt flexible attendance policies for student athletes and coaching staff.
  • Offer options for individuals at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (risk increases with age, and people of any age with certain medical conditions are at higher risk), such as virtual coaching and in-home drills that limits their exposure risk.
  • Limit sports participation to staff and youth who live in the local geographic area (e.g., community, city, town, or county) to reduce risk of spread from areas with higher levels of COVID-19.
  • Explore offering duties that minimize higher risk individuals' contact with others.
  • Limit or cancel all non-essential travel as necessary.
  • Consider level of participation for student athletes at higher risk of developing serious disease.
Processes for monitoring student athletes and staff for symptoms and history of exposure
  • Put a system in place consistent with applicable law and privacy policies, having coaches, staff, umpires/officials, and families of student athletes (as feasible) self-report to the school if they have symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days in accordance with health information sharing regulations for COVID-19.
  • Check for signs and symptoms in student athletes and staff daily upon arrival to practice or games using a sign-in sheet.
  • Whenever feasible, conduct daily health checks (e.g., symptom checking) of coaches, officials, staff, and student athletes safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations and recommend daily self-assessments.
  • Responses to screening questions should be recorded and stored for contact tracing purposes should a
    COVID-19 infection occur. There should be a plan for how these documents are filed.
  • Require enhanced surveillance and testing for any contact sports to minimize higher risk of transmission in participating student athletes.
  • Implement a process to address privacy concerns of monitoring practices and the potential stigma associated with monitoring and confirmed exposure or cases.
  • Actively encourage sick staff, families, and athletes with any illness symptoms to stay home.
  • Individuals, including coaches, student athletes, and families, should stay home if they have tested positive for or are showing COVID-19 symptoms. Current recommendations are to stay at home for at least 10 days and until they are 3 days without fever or symptoms.
  • Individuals, including coaches, student athletes, and families, who have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health. Current recommendations are to stay at home for 10 days and return if no symptoms develop.
Steps to take in relation to isolation or quarantine when a staff member, student athlete or visitor becomes sick or demonstrates a history of exposure
  • Immediately separate coaches, staff, officials, and student athletes with COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, shortness of breath) at any youth sports activity.
  • Establish procedures for safely transporting sick individuals' home.
  • Close off areas used by a sick person and do not use before cleaning and disinfection. Wait at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
  • Notify local health officials, staff, and families of exposure or confirmed case while maintaining confidentiality.
  • Develop policies for return-to-play after COVID-19 illness. Only allow return to sport after infection or exposure following a 10-day quarantine and no fever for 3 days.

Guidelines for hygiene practices for student athletes and staff which include the manner and frequency of hand-washing and other best practices

 

Guidelines for face coverings (masks or face shields) by all coaches and athletic staff.

 

Consider face coverings for student athletes as appropriate.

  • Do not allow spitting and encourage everyone to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of their elbow. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or with hand sanitizer if proper handwashing is not feasible.
  • If hand washing facilities are available, support healthy hygiene by providing supplies including soap, paper towels, tissues, and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans. If hand washing facilities are not available, provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (for coaches, staff and student athletes who can safely use hand sanitizer).
  • Exercise frequent hand hygiene, including before and after play, during practice and during play as rules allow.
  • Ensure appropriate clothing/shoes are worn at all times in the weight room to minimize sweat from transmitting onto equipment/surfaces.
  • Any equipment such as weight benches, athletic pads, etc. having holes with exposed foam should be covered.
  • Use of shared objects and equipment (e.g., balls, bats, gymnastics equipment) should be limited, or cleaned between use by each individual if possible.
  • Student athletes should wear their own appropriate workout clothing (do not share clothing).
  • Student athletes should be encouraged to shower and wash their workout clothing immediately upon returning home.
  • Avoid face touching whenever possible; use hand sanitizer before and after putting on helmets, mouth guards, etc.
  • Coaches should wear masks at all times when in contact with athletes and other coaches.
  • Consider student athletes wearing masks before and after practice, removing masks for practice while continuing social distancing when possible. Any athlete who prefers to wear a cloth face covering during a contest should be allowed to do so.
  • Plastic shields covering the entire face (or attached to a helmet) shall not be allowed during play. Their use during practices increases the risk of unintended injury to the person wearing the shield or teammates.

Expectations for the posting of signs, in highly visible locations, that promote everyday protective measures and how to stop the spread of germs

 

  • Post signs in highly visible locations (e.g., school entrances, restrooms) that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs (such as by properly washing hands and properly wearing a face covering).
  • Broadcast regular announcements on reducing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Include messages (e.g., videos) about behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19 when communicating with staff and families (such as on school websites, in emails, and on school social media accounts).
  • Print free digital resources on CDC's communications resources webpage.
Procedures for cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting and ventilating spaces and any other areas
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface (e.g., drinking fountains) at least daily, or between uses as much as possible.
  • Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • Frequently clean locker rooms and game-area facilities, including during gameplay when possible.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of disinfectants, including storing products securely away from students. Use products that meet EPA disinfection criteria.
  • Identify an adult staff member or volunteer to ensure proper cleaning and disinfection of objects and equipment, particularly for any shared equipment or frequently touched surfaces.
  • Cleaning products should not be used near students, and staff should ensure that there is adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent students or themselves from inhaling toxic fumes.
  • If playing inside, ensure ventilation systems or fans operate properly. Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors.
  • Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Implement transmission risk-mitigation protocols in non-contact sports to address hygiene, disinfection of equipment, distancing during practice and competition, and numbers of participants.

Protocols for social distancing practices to the maximum extent feasible

 

 

 

 

 

  • Encourage social distancing of at least 6 feet while not actively engaged in play (e.g., practice, games, locker rooms, showers).
  • Keep student athletes together in small groups with dedicated coaches or staff, and make sure that each group of student athletes and coach avoid mixing with other groups as much as possible. Teams might consider having the same group of student athletes stay with the same coach or having the same group of student athletes rotate among coaches.
  • Consider staging within-team scrimmages instead of playing games with other teams to minimize exposure among student athletes and teams.
  • Identify adult staff members or volunteers to help maintain social distancing among student athletes, coaches, umpires/officials, and spectators (if state and local directives allow for spectators).
  • Space student athletes at least 6 feet apart on the field while participating in the sport (e.g., during warmup, skill building activities, simulation drills).
  • Provide physical barriers and guides, such as signs and tape on floors or playing fields, to make sure that coaches and student athletes remain at least 6 feet apart.
  • Discourage unnecessary physical contact, such as high fives, handshakes, fist bumps, or hugs.
  • Prioritize outdoor, as opposed to indoor, practice and play as much as possible.
  • Create distance between student athletes when explaining drills or the rules of the game.
  • If keeping physical distance is difficult with student athletes in competition or group practice, consider relying on individual skill work and drills.
  • Encourage student athletes to wait in their cars with parents/guardians until just before the beginning of a practice, warm-up, or game, instead of forming a group.
  • Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations by cohort (group) or put in place other protocols to limit contact between groups and with guardians as much as possible. One example is increasing the amount of time between practices and competitions to allow for one group to depart before another group enters the facility. This also allows for more time to clean the facility between uses.
  • If practices or competition facilities must be shared, consider increasing the amount of time between practices and competitions to allow for one group to leave before another group enters the facility. If possible, allow time for cleaning and/or disinfecting.
Procedures for serving food at events
  • Serve individually plated meals/boxed lunches and avoid buffet style meals whenever possible.
  • Avoid sharing food and utensils.
  • Offer hand sanitizer or encourage hand washing.
Schedules for training all faculty and staff on the implementation of the Athletic Health and Safety Plan before providing services to students
  • Train coaches, officials, and staff on all safety protocols.
  • Conduct training virtually or ensure that social distancing is maintained during training.
  • Stagger in-person training schedules based on plan implementation timelines.
  • Disseminate and update training documents as a reference for staff.

Methods of staggering the use of communal spaces to limit to no more than 25 people at a time and ensure cleaning between uses

 

  • Close shared spaces such as locker rooms, if possible; otherwise, stagger use and clean and disinfect between use.
  • Limit the number of players sitting in confined player seating areas (e.g., dugouts) by allowing student athletes to spread out into spectator areas if more space is available (e.g., if spectators are not allowed).
  • Pursue virtual group events, gatherings, or meetings, if possible, and promote social distancing of at least 6 feet between people if events are held. Limit group size to the extent possible.
  • Consider student athletes reporting to workouts in proper gear and immediately return home to shower at end of the workout.
Procedures to limit the sharing of materials and equipment among student athletes. Whenever possible, equipment and other personal items should be separated and not shared. If shared, all equipment should be properly disinfected between users.
  • Minimize equipment sharing such as protective gear, balls, bats, racquets, or mats.
  • Clean and disinfect shared equipment between uses by different people.
  • Keep each athlete's belongings separated from others' and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, lockers or other areas. 
  • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent possible or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of student athletes at a time and clean and disinfect between use. For devices and materials that must be shared, ensure cleaning and disinfecting between uses.
  • Do not share personal items such as towels or water bottles.
  • Hydration is critical to student athletes. Establish safe processes to distribute water to student athletes while minimizing infection risk (e.g., provide individual water bottles, water stations supervised by designated staff members, etc.). 
Processes for identifying and restricting non-essential visitors, spectators and volunteers
  • During the yellow and green phases for reopening, sports-related activities at the PK-12 level are limited to student athletes, coaches, officials, and staff. The addition of visitors and spectators will be contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities.
  • Avoid group events, such as games, competitions, or social gatherings, where spacing of at least 6 feet between people cannot be maintained.
  • Limit any nonessential visitors, spectators, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations as much as possible – especially with individuals not from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
  • Avoid activities and events such as off-site competitions or excursions (e.g., watching a professional team compete).
Protocols for adjusting transportation schedules and practices to create social distancing
  • Create social distance between student athletes and coaches on school buses (e.g., seating one person per seat or every other row).
  • Provide adult supervision on buses to ensure social distancing of student athletes.
  • Consider decreasing the number of student athletes traveling for an event to allow for appropriate social distancing on buses.
  • Limit the use of carpools or van pools. When riding in an automobile to a sports event, encourage players to ride to the sports event with persons living in their same household.
  • Consider competing only against teams in their local area (e.g., neighborhood, town, or community).
  • Consider regional levels of infection and transmission in making decisions on competition with other teams.
  • Avoid travel to regions with high rates of infection.
System for ensuring ongoing communication with families around the elements of the local Health and Safety Plan including ways that families can practice safe hygiene in the home
  • Educate staff, student athletes and their families about when they should stay home and when they can return to activity
  • Post the Athletic Health and Safety Plan on public school/district website.
  • Provide regular updates to information on school website and in parent flyers/letters.
  • Encourage caregivers and families to practice and reinforce good prevention habits at home and within their families.
  • Remind parents to keep student athlete at home if sick with any illness.
  • Notify families and the public of sports facility closures and restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure (e.g., limited hours of operation).
  • Discourage student athletes and families from gathering in other public places while school is dismissed to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.