Athletics and Safely Social Distancing During PlayOctober 5, 2020 1:18 pm
With professional sports back on TV and students returning to school in one fashion or another comes renewed talk about the safety of participating in athletic activities during COVID-19. Is it safe to play group sports during a pandemic? What about if they are played outside? Or if they don’t require direct physical contact? While we all want to return to our active lives and want the same for our children, it’s imperative to properly assess the risk of doing so. Here we take a look at what New Jersey Department of Health is recommending for athletics and COVID-19.
Is it safe to practice team sports during Covid-19? What sports are high risk?
The state of New Jersey has issued guidance on the safety of sports during Covid-19, breaking down sports by risk level. Currently, practices for all risk levels are allowed as long as necessary precautions are taken and guidelines are followed.
As of July 20th, contact practices and competitions for high risk-sports are allowed to resume as long as they are in outdoor settings. No-contact practices for high-risk sports are allowed in both outdoor and indoor settings.
Low-risk sports: Sports that can be done individually, do not involve personal contact, and do not routinely involve individuals coming within 6 feet of one another.
- These include: Archery, shooting/clay target, individual running events, individual cycling events, individual swimming, individual rowing, individual diving, equestrian jumping or dressage, golf, individual sailing, weightlifting, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, individual dance, pole vault, high jump, long jump, marathon, triathlon, cross country, track and field, disc golf, badminton.
Medium risk sports: Sports that do involve some close contact, but with protective equipment in place between participants, or intermittent close contact, or group sports, or sports that use equipment that cannot be cleaned between participants.
- These include Lacrosse, hockey, multi-person rowing, multi person kayaking, multi-person canoeing, water polo, swimming relays, fencing, cycling in a group, running in a close group, group sailing, volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball/softball, short track.
High risk sports: Sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants.
- These include: Rugby, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo, wrestling, pair figure skating, football, group dance, group cheer.
How should a sports program prepare for practices during the coronavirus pandemic?
While preparing a sports program during a pandemic brings a unique set of challenges, it can be done. Below are some tips on how to safely prepare a program:
- Create a plan that ensures all adult staff members, volunteers, coaches, players, and staff are adhering to social distancing practices. Use signs, tape, or barriers to assist with guiding social distancing if possible/required.
- Within the program, consider building groups of the same staff, volunteers, and athletes, and avoid mixing between groups.
- All individuals, whether they be athletes, coaches, parents, fans, etc, should remain at least six feet apart whenever possible.
- Coaches, staff, parents, and guardians should wear cloth face coverings. Athletes should wear cloth or disposable face coverings when not engaged in rigorous activity. Face coverings are not required when engaged in high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities. Face coverings should not be worn when engaged in activities like swimming that may cause the cloth face covering to become wet, or when doing so may endanger the individual’s health.
- Create staggered schedules to limit interaction.
- All staff should be educated on COVID-19 safety, health and hygiene protocols.
- Coaches, staff and athletes should be well-educated on how to monitor symptoms of Covid-19, when to stay home, and when it is safe to return to activity.
- All athletes, coaches, and staff should bring their own water bottles.
- Athletes should be encouraged to use their own equipment whenever possible.
- Discourage use of locker rooms or showers.
- Make sure all aspects of the plan are communicated to parents and guardians.
How should a facility be prepared for sports during Covid-19?
Maintaining a clean facility constitutes a large part of COVID-19 safety:
- Ensure signage is posted in highly-visible locations with reminders about social distancing protocols, face-covering requirements, and good hygiene practices.
- Take steps to reduce crowding around entrances and exits and other high traffic areas of your facility
- Routinely clean and disinfect the entire facility, especially high-touch surfaces, in accordance with CDC guidelines.
- Limit restroom occupancy to avoid overcrowding and maintain social distancing in restroom lines with signage.
- Provide hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, soap and water, or other sanitizing materials at entrances, exits, benches, dugouts and any other area prone to gathering or high traffic.
- In any given field or space, there must be sufficient space between designated groups to prevent any interaction between the groups.
How should practices and games be conducted?
By following safety protocols and taking extra precaution, we can have both a return to sports and a healthy fall season:
- Coaches, staff, visitors and athletes will be required to abide by the gatherings limitations outlined in Executive Order Nos. 156 (2020) and 161 (2020), or the Order in effect at the time of competition.
- Athletes, coaches, staff and others participating in practices or games should be screened with a temperature check and/or health questionnaire. Those showing symptoms of COVID-19 shall not be permitted to participate. If any individual shows symptoms during an activity, organizers should be promptly informed, and the individual must be removed and instructed to return home.
- Practices that do not involve sustained person-to-person contact should be encouraged, and indoor practices should be limited or avoided whenever possible.
- If any equipment is provided by the program, sharing should be limited as much as possible, and any shared equipment should be cleaned and disinfected at the end of each practice session using a product from the list of disinfectants meeting EPA criteria for use against the novel coronavirus. Do not allow athletes to share food, beverages, water bottles, towels, pinnies, gloves, helmets or any other equipment or materials that is involved in direct bodily contact.
- Divide larger teams into smaller groups and stagger practice days/hours if possible.
- Limit any nonessential visitors. Those who do visit, like media, vendors, and spectators, must wear a mask at all times.
- Mark off a socially distanced viewing area for nonessential visitors and spectators
- Discourage spitting, handshakes, high fives, huddles and other close contact between individuals.
- Stick to your sports program plan!
Categorised in: Blog
This post was written by CJ Urgent Care of NJ