With official fall practices scheduled to begin in a few weeks, the Arizona Interscholastic Association released a document on Monday of recommendations to return to athletic activity guidelines for the upcoming school year.
“Covid-19 is and will continue to be present in our communities indefinitely,” the document read. “As long as there is active community spread, which means that new cases are still increasing, we must all be stewards of maintaining a healthy community by limiting the spread of disease.”
Some of the return to play guidelines are similar to the protocols that the AIA put in place prior to the fall 2020 season. Student athletes, coaches and anyone involved with the team are recommended to follow common health procedures and proper hygiene including handwashing, staying home if sick and avoid touching their face.
The AIA recommends practicing in areas with good outside airflow. The association is also continuing its recommendation of each athlete having their water bottle and towel during practice. Unvaccinated members of a team are encouraged to have his or her own ball.
Athletic training staff can continue treating athletes and athletes are recommended to wear masks at all times while getting treatment.
In the 14-page document, there are guidelines for individuals who are fully vaccinated against covid-19.
Fully vaccinated people have less restrictions and could somewhat return to a sense of normalcy. Individuals who are immunized against the virus can refrain from testing if they’ve been exposed or have had close contact with someone infected with covid-19. Following exposure, vaccinated individuals can refrain from quarantine if they’re asymptomatic.
However, if vaccinated people begin to show symptoms, they’ll be asked to stay home. If a positive covid-19 test follows, they’ll be required to follow guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes isolating at home for a minimum of 10 days. The same rule goes for unvaccinated people who are sick or test positive for the virus.
Once a positive test is confirmed, all close contacts of the sick individual shall be screened for symptoms and are to isolate away from the team until cleared by the team’s point of contact. Like the CDC, the AIA defines a closed contact as an individual who has been within six feet of an infected individual for more than 15 minutes.
In the document, the AIA “strongly recommends” that all members of the athletic community who are eligible to receive immunization against covid-19 to get vaccinated.
“Fully vaccinated people have a reduced risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to unvaccinated people, from being infected with SARS-CoV-2, or having severe infection with SARS-CoV-2.”
For athletes to return to play after a positive test, the AIA won’t require a negative test to return to their team, but they must get cleared by a physician with a covid-19 return to play form that shows no signs or risk of cardiovascular issues after infection.
For unvaccinated athletes who had to quarantine following close contact with a positive individual, they could return to play without additional clearance from physicians. Between days 10 and 14 after contact, athletes could take a PCR nasal swab test and could return on the 15th day if negative. Athletes in isolation are encouraged to engage in light exercises if they don’t have any symptoms.
Suspension of competition or team activities is possible if a team has an outbreak. According to the document, an outbreak is defined as two positive cases for teams with less than 25 athletes. For larger teams with more than 25 members, three or more positive cases is considered an outbreak.
If a team does have an outbreak, all team activities for unvaccinated athletes should be paused for a minimum of eight days. If the sick members were fully vaccinated, activities for the whole team will be halted. Suspension could extend longer if more positive cases develop among the team.
All fall sports programs for Lake Havasu High will start official practice on Aug. 9. The first team from LHHS to start competition will be boys golf. The Knights will begin the 2021 season in a four-team match hosted by Estrella Foothills on Aug. 17.