NCAA focus on testing and sports' return, not fans in stands


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Testing for contact sports like football is a factor.
Testing for contact sports like football is a factor.

The NCAA released a roadmap this week on the return of college athletics out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their “Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport” takes the national guidelines on the United States’ recovery and adds the logical next steps in those phases for college sports.

Each state is in a different place in that road and testing will be a key component going forward, says NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline.

"What we really discussed in some detail was: What is it going to take to get sport back? And I will tell you that 80% of the conversation centered around testing," Hainline told the Associated Press. "And more specifically, what happens in contact sports like basketball or football, when one of the players tests positive. Does that mean quarantine? Does that mean we do very regular testing?

"And I think that's the granular type of detail that we still don't have universal agreement for two reasons: One is we don't have all of the ready-made, point-of-care tests; and No. 2, the serology tests that are out there to date, they just aren't reliable."

According to the same AP story, playing in front of fans is lower on the priority level currently.

"Having a full-fledged event with a full stadium right now, that's just not what people are talking about," Hainline told AP. "It's getting the sports going."

Getting college sports going is tied to everyday life on a college campus, says the new NCAA guidelines.

"Collegiate sports differ from professional sports because all collegiate athletes are first and foremost students. Thus, resocialization of collegiate sport must be grounded in resocialization of college campuses. As with society at large, such resocialization must be measured, nimble and based on sound science. In all instances, college athletics must operate with approval of school leadership, and the school must be operating in accordance with local and state public officials regarding a return to campus, return to practice and return to competition. In the end, school and governmental leadership determine who can participate in, assist with, and watch student-athlete practices and competition."

The NCAA’s plan going forward:

Core principles of resocialization of collegiate sport:

There must not be directives at the national level that preclude resocialization.

State and local authorities must have in place a plan for resocialization.

In accordance with the federal guidelines, such a plan assumes the following state/local GATING CRITERIA have been satisfied:

A downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period and a downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.

A downward trajectory of documented cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests within a 14-day period.

Hospitals can treat all patients without crisis care and there is a robust testing program in place for at-risk health care workers, including emerging antibody testing.

There should be a plan in place at the university/college level for resocialization of students. In keeping with the federal guidelines, universities should consider guidance provided to employers to develop and implement appropriate policies regarding the following:

-Social distancing and protective equipment.

-Temperature checks.

-Testing and isolating.

-Sanitation.

-Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas.

-School business travel.

-Monitoring of the workforce for indicative symptoms and preventing symptomatic people from physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider.

-Workforce contact tracing after an employee’s positive test for COVID-19.

-There must be a plan in place at the university/college level for resocialization of student-athletes within athletics. In keeping with the federal guidelines, athletics should practice the following:

-All student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should practice good hygiene.

-All student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should stay home if they feel sick.

-Guidance noted above for university employees should be in place within athletics.

-There must be adequate personal protective equipment for athletics health care providers, and there must be sanitizers to manage infection control in all shared athletics space.

-There must be the ability to assess immunity to COVID-19 at a regional and local level. This could include immunity at the college campus, plus a more focused assessment of herd immunity for athletics teams.

-There must be access to reliable, rapid diagnostic testing on any individual who is suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms.

-There must be in place a local surveillance system so that newly identified cases can be identified promptly and isolated, and their close contacts must be managed appropriately.

-There must be clearly identified and transparent risk analyses in place. Such risk analyses consider issues such as economics, education, restoration of society, and medical risk of sport participation, including COVID-19 infection and possible death.

Phase One:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, resocialization of sport for Phase One assumes the following:

Gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days.

Vulnerable student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should continue to shelter in place. Vulnerable populations include individuals with serious underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity and asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised, such as by chemotherapy.

Those living in dorms and other residences where vulnerable individuals reside should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home, and appropriate isolating precautions should be taken.

Physical distancing should continue.

Gatherings of more than 10 people should be avoided unless precautionary measures of physical distancing and sanitization are in place.

Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact, should remain closed unless strict distancing and sanitation protocols can be implemented.

Virtual meetings should be encouraged whenever possible and feasible.

Nonessential travel should be minimized, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding isolation after travel should be implemented.

Phase Two:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, if Phase One has been implemented successfully, with no evidence of a rebound, and gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days since the implementation of Phase One:

Vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place.

Awareness and proper isolating practices related to vulnerable individuals in residences should continue.

Physical distancing should continue.

Gatherings of more than 50 people should be avoided unless precautionary measures of physical distancing and sanitization are in place.

Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact should remain closed, or appropriate distancing and sanitation protocols should be implemented.

Virtual meetings should continue to be encouraged whenever possible and feasible.

Nonessential travel may resume.

Phase Three:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, if Phase Two has been implemented successfully, with no evidence of a rebound, and gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days since the implementation of Phase Two:

Vulnerable student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel can resume in-person interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to settings where such distancing is not practical.

Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact can reopen if appropriate sanitation protocols are implemented, but even low-risk populations should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments.

Unrestricted staffing may resume.

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