Comprehensive Fall 2020 Return to Sport Guidelines

Mississippi High School Activities Association

Comprehensive Fall 2020 Return to Sport Guidelines

Updated: August 25, 2020


Purpose Statement

By implementing well understood concepts, many of which will be familiar as part of return to workouts guidelines issued for Summer 2020, we aim to reintroduce sports and  extra-curricular activities and competition to public school in the safest manner possible.  Our overall goal is allowing students to enjoy the benefits of MHSAA activities without allowing our teams to be a source of rapid spread of COVID 19 or danger to our communities.  To achieve this, 5 broad strategies will be adopted across all sports, with rule changes specific or unique to each sport to be addressed separately.

Strategy 1 

Educate and prepare students, coaches and administrators about the issues related to COVID 19 and sports participation.

Strategy 2 

Use effective and consistent cleaning regimens and masking policies to reduce the overall risk of transmission

Strategy 3

Use aggressive screening to remove infected and exposed students from participation before exposing others

Strategy 4

Implement strategies to reduce exposure to potentially asymptomatic individuals through proximity

Strategy 5 

Implement a consistent isolation, contact reporting, quarantine, and return to play policy among all member schools.

In the event that the member school’s district policy differs from that spelled out in this document, the more strict policy will be considered the one to use. 



Educate and prepare students, coaches and administrators about the issues related to COVID 19 and sports participation.

Student Education

  1. All facilities, both indoors and outdoors, should have highly visible signage stating common COVID-19 symptoms as information and reminders for coaches, students and parents/guardians. Individuals should not be allowed to enter the facility or workout space if they have any symptom or have a potential exposure or known close contact.
  2. Prior to resuming practice or competition, coaches and administrators should meet with students and parents to discuss the importance of reporting symptoms and exposure as early as possible, as well as review the isolation, quarantine, and return to play protocols before practice begins.

Coach and Administrator Preparedness

  1. Coaches and administrators should be required to complete a basic education course on COVID 19, such as the NFHS COVID-19 for Coaches and Administrators Course
    1. This is an addition to previously enacted MHSAA requirements for Sports First Aid and CPR certification .
  2. The emergency action plans for each sport and individual venue should be updated to reflect changes necessary to meet COVID 19 requirements
  3. Coaches should regularly confirm the availability of, and access to hand-washing facilities, hand sanitizer and cleaning materials at all locations used by their students.
  4. Each school must provide its coaches and athletic medical staff access to adequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves and face shields.


Use effective and consistent cleaning regimens and masking policies to reduce the overall risk of transmission

Hygiene and Masking

  1. Hand washing or hand sanitizing should be completed before beginning activity, at frequent intervals during workouts or competition, and upon completion of activity before leaving the facility.
  2. Hand sanitizer stations or hand washing facilities should be made readily available at all venues, during workouts, practice, or competition.
  3. All non-competing students, sideline personnel, officials, and game administrators should be masked at all times.
  4. Competing athletes should be allowed the option of wearing a mask during competition or working out.
  5. Students who are rotating out of competition, coaches, and sideline personnel should be masked.
    1. To eliminate the risk of masks becoming dislodged or becoming a choking hazard, it is recommended that during competition athletes use a neck gaiter style mask, which be slide down if desired during competition and slide up on the sideline while out of play.
    2. Teams will be responsible for supplying extra masks in the event one should become soiled, damaged, or lost during competition.
  6. Sport specific equipment changes, such as shields for the inside of the facemask in football helmets, are allowed, but must be NFHS approved models.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

  1. Shared equipment, such as tackling dummies, balls, and agility drill aids should be cleaned daily after use using CDC Approved cleaning solutions. A link with appropriate cleaning solutions will be placed on the MHSAA website.
  2. Shared locker room or indoor practice space and equipment must be cleaned daily after use. This includes shared flooring such as tumbling mats, team seating, or restrooms.
  3. Host schools are responsible for providing a clean and sanitized environment for visiting teams.
    1. Dressing or preparing for competition outside is recommended
    2. Teams should consider traveling dressed to games in order to limit locker room usage

Further Sanitation Guidelines

  1. Auxiliary personnel, such as ticket takers, concession stand workers, security, media, and volunteers, should be masked at all times while working an event.
  2. Auxiliary personnel should be gloved or use hand sanitizer/hand washing between contact with other persons.


Use aggressive screening to remove infected and exposed student, coaches and administrators from participation before exposing others

  1. A checklist should be used for each student participating each day to screen for signs and symptoms of COVID 19 as well as exposure to COVID 19. A sample checklist is available on the MHSAA Website.
  2. A log of students participating daily should be kept and maintained for the purpose of contact tracing in the event that a student or coach is diagnosed or suspected to have COVID 19.
  3. Temperature checks before participation should be incorporated into screening as access to thermometers improve. A temperature of 100.0 Fahrenheit or higher should be considered a fever and trigger evaluation for COVID 19.  A touchless digital thermometer is recommended.
  4. During competition, it is the host school’s responsibility to screen all game day personnel prior to working the event. Game day personnel include, but are not limited to, chain crews, officials, athletic trainers, timers, judges, scorers, ball boy/girl, etc… Method of screening may be determined by host school.
    1. Host Schools are required to keep a log of support personnel to show who has been screened.
    2. A standardized checklist for screening support staff will be made available on the MHSAA Website.
    3. Host schools are required to inform visiting schools of their screening plans and protocols prior to arrival.
    4. Host schools are required to designate specific entrances for different personnel groups (visiting teams, support personnel, officials, etc…) and will have a visual method of identifying that all personnel have been screened, such as a hand stamp, sticker, or wrist band.
  5. The host school will also be responsible for screening auxiliary event personnel, such as ticket takers, concession stand workers, security, media, and volunteers, prior to working an athletic event. Method of screening may be determined by host school.


Implement changes to reduce exposure to potentially asymptomatic individuals through proximity

Reduce Group Size Adequate Spacing

  1. Only school personnel, coaches, students, and medical staff should be present during practice or workouts.
  2. Limit Non-essential personnel on the sidelines during competition. Only competing athletes, coaches, medical staff, and essential ancillary personnel should be allowed on the sidelines at games.
  3. No Contact between fans and personnel at the facility (pre- and post-game) should be allowed. Teams should enter and leave the field of play promptly without intermingling with spectators after competition.
  4. Similar to limiting the number of persons on the sidelines for a game, travel parties for away game should be kept to the minimum number of athletes, coaches, and ancillary personnel needed to compete.
  5. It is still advisable that teams limit group size where possible during activities.
    1. Varsity and Junior Varsity or 9th grade teams should practice separately
    2. Teams in off season should still be working in small groups or pods in order to limit exposure and make contact tracing more achievable.

Spacing/Social Distancing

  1. Pre and post-game interactions between competing teams and personnel as well as competing teams and fans should be limited as much as possible.
  2. Students should be allowed to travel home from away games with parents/guardians as much as possible.
  3. Expand the sidelines as much as possible to allow for adequate spacing.
    1. Example: Football should allow the player/coaches box to extend from 10 yard line to 10 yard line to allow players to space adequately. 
  4. Designate areas within the sidelines for set groups of students, coaches or personnel
    1. Example: dividing offense and defense into set areas, or starters and reserves in a similar manner, would insure better spacing on the sideline. 
  5. Separate dance and cheer teams from competing athletes and coaches, and allow these groups enough space to social distance among themselves.

Reduce Shared Equipment

  1. Limit, and if possible eliminate, sharing of items that may become contaminated such as water bottles and towels.
  2. Water bottles should be designated to each player whenever possible. In the event that this is not possible (due to team size, venue, etc…) then non shared water sources need to be used such as disposable water cups.
    1. See the Guidance for Hydrating Athletes document posted to the MHSAA website
  3. Towels/clothing should be kept separate when contaminated. There should be no shared towels or clothing items during workouts or competition.  If teams elect to launder items as a team, it is recommended to use these methods:

Locker rooms/ Dressing Rooms

  1. If used, locker rooms or dressing rooms should be structured to allow 6 feet between occupants.
  2. These areas must be cleaned daily if used by single teams, or between teams in the event of they are used for a tournament or competition that involves several teams using the same facilities during a single day.

Competition Venues

  1. Venues should have prominent signage requiring masking, social distancing, and describing procedures specific to that venue, such as lines and spacing for restrooms and concession stands.
  2. Venues should have designated parking for team buses or equipment trucks that are separated from the public.


Implement a consistent isolation, contact reporting, quarantine, and return to play policy among all member schools.

Isolation for Symptoms

  1. Isolation for COVID 19: An athlete who has signs or symptoms of COVID 19, , or an elevated temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit should be isolated from their team or activity until COVID 19 is ruled out.
    1. It is recommended that the athlete be seen by their healthcare provider (physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant) and screened for common sources of fever (such as flu, strep throat, urinary tract infections, etc…) as well as a COVID 19 test.
    2. To return to activity the student needs three things:
      1. A minimum of 48 hours must pass from symptom onset or exposure.
      2. Documentation from a healthcare provider (physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant) stating that the student has been screened and whether a COVID 19 test is warranted, and if tested what the results are.
  • Absence of symptoms, without the use of medication to reduce their symptoms, for 24 hours
  1. If a student cannot be evaluated by a healthcare professional (physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant) in a timely manner, or chooses not to be evaluated or tested for whatever reason, they enter a mandatory 14 day quarantine the same as for students who are known positive for COVID 19 and are not allowed to participate until they complete the quarantine.
  2. If a student has undergone COVID 19 testing, they are prohibited from participation until their test results return, regardless of symptoms.

Isolation for Close Contact

If deemed a close contact according to the protocol established by each individual school district, the Mississippi State Department of Health Requires a 14 day quarantine.

Quarantine for COVID 19

Students who are positive for COVID 19 are prohibited from participating in MHSAA activities (practice or competition) for a period of 14 days from diagnosis.

  1. If exact symptom onset or exact date of exposure can be determined, this date can be used as the start date for the 14 day quarantine.
  2. If neither the exposure or the start of symptoms can be determined, then the date the student was tested (regardless of how long it took for results to return) is the date that the 14 day quarantine begins.
  3. Students or coaches will not be allowed to return to activity sooner than 14 days, including if they subsequently test negative before the 14 day quarantine is complete.
  4. At the discretion of the student’s physician, their quarantine can be extended beyond 14 days in the event of severe illness or ongoing symptoms.

Return to Play from COVID 19

Students who have been diagnosed with COVID 19 must meet these requirements to return to play

  1. Completion of the 14 day quarantine, with the last 3 days (72 hours) of the quarantine being symptom free including the absence of fever without fever reducing medication
  2. Return to play sooner than 14 day quarantine is not permitted,
    1. Repeat or serial testing in order to obtain negative test results to return to play sooner than completing the 14 day quarantine is not allowed.
    2. Neither a negative antigen or PCR nasal swab, nor serological evidence of antibodies should not be included as a requirement to return to play.
  3. A written release from a physician (MD or DO) must be provided.  The level of workup required for release will vary depending on the severity of the infection and symptoms, and will be left to the discretion of the physician.  It is recommended that they adhere to the NFHS and AMSSM Joint Statement on Cardiopulmonary Considerations for High School Student-Athletes, which will be posted to the MHSAA Website.
    1. It is recommended that students that have moderate to severe cases of COVID 19 undergo a 5 day re-acclimatization period prior to returning to full activity or participation in competition.


  1. If an athlete is confirmed via testing to have contracted COVID 19, not just presumed positive based on symptoms, fully recovers and returns to activity, then they are exempt from MANDATORY isolation, quarantine, and return to play protocols for COVID 19. Because there has yet to be a clinically proven case of reinfection in persons that have contracted and subsequently recovered from COVID 19, the care and quarantine of athletes that are show signs of illness but have been known to have previously had COVID 19 is left up to their physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant.
  2. If an athlete can show documentary proof of COVID 19 infection, which must include a COVID 19 swab test and not just a presumed infection, prior to the start of the 2020/2021 athletic season, they are similarly exempt as listed above.

Close Contact in the Setting of Athletics

In the case of participation by an COVID positive student or coach, it is the responsibility of the school affected to identify close contacts of the infected according to their school district’s policy for identifying close contacts.


Member schools are required to report students, or coaches or administrators present at an event that came into contact with opposing students, coaches or administrators, with known or probable COVID cases on their team to any other member school they have competed or practiced against within the 48 hours prior to the student in question being tested or isolated for symptoms.  This information needs to be reported within 12 hours of learning of symptoms or exposure.


Check Also

2020-21 Track and Field Considerations for COVID – Updated

2020-21 Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Considerations In support of the Guidance for Opening …