College sports teams required to follow strict COVID-19 testing procedures

The California Department of Public Health released guidelines for higher education institutions on how to conduct in-person learning and practice sports.

"As colleges and other institutions of higher education plan to resume in-person instruction, it’s critical that campuses make modifications to reduce risk. This guidance aims to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among our students, families, and the communities where they study," said Dr. Erica Pan, State Epidemiologist.

The phased reopening will depend on local conditions including epidemiologic trends, according to health officials.

The guidance identifies areas IHE must address:

- Complying with guidance on the use of face coverings.

- Establishing a campus-specific COVID-19 prevention plan.

- Implementing distancing on campus. Space seating/desks at least six feet apart.

- For counties on the County Data Monitoring list for three consecutive days, indoor lectures are currently prohibited. Courses offered in specialized indoor settings (e.g., labs, studio arts), whose design imposes substantial physical distancing on participants based on the nature of work performed in the space, are permitted.

- Limit nonessential visitors and campus activities.

- Closing nonessential shared spaces, such as game rooms and lounges.

- Providing grab-and-go meal options or serve individually plated meals.

- Prioritizing single room occupancy for housing, except for family housing.

- Training faculty, staff and students on COVID-19 prevention.

- Encouraging telework for as many faculty and staff as possible, especially workers at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

- When a student, faculty or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 and has exposed others, the IHE must conduct initial assessments then consult with local public health officials to determine potential follow-up actions needed including potential total or partial closure and other measures to protect the community.

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College sports will also have restrictions. Drake Jackson, a USC Defensive End and Sophomore, is hoping they will have a season this year.

 Drake Jackson, a USC Defensive End and Sophomore

"I just hope I'm on the field again. That's what I really miss. Hopefully everybody does their part and stays clean and does the procedures that are put forth and I feel like it'll work because we're getting tested weekly. This is the sport I wanted to play so I'm willing to do anything for it," said Jackson.

The IHE guidance also outlines conditions under which collegiate athletics may return. This includes:

- Teams must require masks for coaches, staff, media and any players not engaged in play at each match.

- Practice may resume, only if regular periodic COVID-19 testing of athletes and support staff must be established and implemented by the IHE. Isolation and quarantine will be required upon a positive test.

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Competition between teams without spectators can begin only if:

- IHE can provide COVID-19 testing and results within 72 hours of competition in high contact risk sports.

- Athletics departments should consider how to share testing results and related safety assurances to opposing teams before the start of an event in a manner consistent with applicable health information and education privacy laws.

- In conjunction with local public health officials and contact tracers, schools must in place a mechanism for notifying other schools should an athlete from one team test positive within 48 hours after competition with another team.

- Teams must follow the college athletic association (e.g., NCAA), conference-specific, and institutions of higher education-specific “return to play” safety plans.

State officials said due to the "higher risk associated with play, IHEs are expected to ensure full compliance with the state guidelines for college athletics."

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