Pennsylvania schools are on their way to starting voluntary offseason workouts, as Governor Tom Wolf has released safety guidelines for returning to play in wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Schools' governing bodies in both the PIAA and PAISAA must adopt an Athletics, Health and Safety plan and post that plan to their website. That plan must align with the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Preliminary Guidance for Phased Reopening of Pre-K to 12 Schools.
At that point, teams can begin to meet for offseason cross country workouts, in accordance with the PIAA's out-of-season rules.
For schools in yellow and green phase counties the plan has been put in place to make sure that "all sport teams and organizations conduct their operations in the manner best designed to prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of the athletes and the communities they serve," according to the PIAA's press release.
Schools in the "yellow" phase can gather with up to 25 people, while those in the "green" phase can gather with up to 250 people.
Athletics have been on hold in Pennsylvania since March 13, when Governor Wolf initially made the decision to close schools in the state. The PIAA initially set a July 1 date to start voluntary offseason workouts, but with today's announcement from the governor, schools can now resume once a return-to-play plan has been approved and posted by the school's governing bodies.
Tom Reisenweber of the Erie Times-News reported that the PIAA's associate executive director Melissa Mertz said the "PIAA is planning on all fall sports taking place on time."
The governor's release outlines a series of guidelines that must be followed "to conduct games and practices." See those bullet points
- 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. 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.