In an eight-page notification, the Missouri State High School Activities Association recently announced approval for fall sports for Missouri high schools.
The notification included guidelines and recommendations for opening sports and activities amid the covid-19 pandemic.
MSHSAA and its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee offered the document as guidance on how the state association can open up sports and activities in preparation for the fall season and beyond.
"The risk of coronavirus transmission will still be present to some degree as schools begin in August and possibly through the 2020-21 school year," the document said. "Students and their families, along with school personnel must recognize these risks and implement best practices to reasonably mitigate these risks."
One of the key guidelines was that in order to compete in sports, a member school must offer some type of on-site classes for the 2020-2021 school year.
The guidelines stated that if a school is "only offering virtual instruction with no face to face education, either temporarily or for the semester/year, you may not offer sports and activities during that period."
The release went on to say that if "conditions are such in your local area that you are unable to safely bring students to a common location for instruction, bringing students together for practice and competitions is inappropriate."
The release also addressed attendance at games.
According to the guidelines and recommendations, "schools are encouraged to offer live streaming of games/contests/performances to reduce attendance at events so that current gathering size and social distancing can be met."
MSHSAA advised schools to "group people into tiers from essential to non-essential and decide which tiers be allowed at an event if local and/or state health department guidelines restrict group sizes. Only Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel will be allowed to attend events until state/local health departments lift restrictions on mass gatherings.
Tier 1 includes participants, coaches, officials, staff, medical staff and security.
Tier 2 is media while Tier 3 is spectators and vendors.
MSHSAA included guidelines for schools if a player or coach tests positive for covid-19.
The release said if player or coach tests positive, the following should occur:
"All participants who had close contact, direct contact with this individual, or a direct exposure to secretions (up to 48 hours before they started showing symptoms) should be excluded from practice or play for 14 days. The health department should be contacted to assist in proper contact tracing and quarantining of individuals. If there was doubt of who the individual came into contact with, then the entire team that practiced or competed with the individual should be quarantined for 14 days."
An exception to the guideline was that if "coaches and staff who came in contact with the infected individual while properly wearing a mask may not need to be excluded from participation."
Also, if the person who was infected "was wearing a mask or face covering, it is possible that none of their contacts will have to be excluded from participation. Though, "in some cases a mask or face covering may not be considered protective depending on the type of exposure."
The release had several guidelines for schools regarding screenings, cleaning of all equipment and facilities, limiting hydration to personal water bottles (no communal -- such as water carts -- should be used and several other preventative measures).
Social distancing as required by local and state health departments will need to be maintained on buses/vans. Social distancing guidelines on the sidelines and benches will be established by local and/or state health departments.
If a school makes it through the regular season, MSHSAA said that "efforts will be made to administer a postseason for those schools/students who are permitted to do so based on the guidelines of the local and state health departments. In this scenario, MSHSAA does not intend to revoke the participation opportunities for students who are able to take part."
Other considerations include:
• Hand sanitizer should be widely available at contests and practices. Participants, coaches and officials should clean hands frequently;
• Wipe equipment frequently;
• No pre-game and post-game handshakes/high-fives/fist bumps;
• Officials and sideline volunteers are required to wear a mask or face covering;
• There will be sport/activity rules modifications documents to assist further with mitigation of virus transfer during this time. MSHSAA will notify member schools when these rules modifications have been finalized.