Note: This is not an exhaustive list and there might be additional steps in each community to help prevent the spread of virus. Even when taking all precautions, there will still be risk of transmitting illnesses. Everyone should stay vigilant about the health of members of their teams. These guidelines are to be integrated with the NFHS guidelines and the MHSAA Mississippi Sports Medicine guidelines. The situation with Covid-19 is rapidly changing. Please keep up with the latest from the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health.
Prior to resuming practice or competition, coaches and administrators should consider meeting 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.
It is recommended that coaches and administrators complete a basic education course on COVID 19, such as the free NFHS COVID-19 for Coaches and Administrators Course (www.nfhslearn.com)
By implementing well understood concepts, many of which will be familiar as part of the 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 sports/activities without allowing our teams to be a source of rapid spread of COVID 19 or danger to our communities. In the event that the member school’s district policy differs from that spelled out in this document, the stricter policy will be considered the one to use.
- Attendance policy & quarantine procedure will be determined before team competition begins and at the appropriate time.
- Post social distancing signs inside & outside of facility.
- No mask no entry.
- All game day personnel involved in the athletic event should be screened prior to working the event. Game day personnel include, but are not limited to, officials, athletic trainers, timers, judges, scorers, ball boy/girl, etc.
- Hand sanitizing stations.
- On duty personnel should wear a mask.
- Any auxiliary persons (ticket takers, concession stand workers, security, media, and volunteers) should be screened prior to working an athletic event. Method of screening may be determined by host school.
- Any auxiliary participant who experiences any symptoms of COVID-19 should follow CDC and MDH guidelines before being allowed to work an event.
- Restroom attendant mask/gloves.
- Concession stand workers mask/gloves.
- Create a plan for line management at concession stands.
- Establish a plan for proper food preparation per FDA/CDC guidelines for food.
- Use single-serve condiment packets.
- Only clock operator & PA announcer in the press box.
- Have PA announcer broadcast social distance reminders.
- Restrict pedestrian flow in common areas.
- Create media guidelines and communicate these prior to and at each event.
Cleaning & Sanitizing
- Shared equipment, such as tackling dummies, balls, and agility drill aids should be cleaned daily after use using CDC Approved cleaning solutions.
- Shared locker room or indoor practice space and equipment must be cleaned daily after use. This includes shared flooring such as tumbling mats (follow manufacturer cleaning directions), team seating, or restrooms.
- These areas must be cleaned daily if used by single teams, or between teams in the event they are used for a tournament or competition that involves several teams using the same facilities during a single day.
- Size of facility should be large enough to social distance.
- Time spent in dressing room for home/away team should not be excessive.
Coach and Administrator Preparedness
- 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.
- The emergency action plans for each sport and individual venue should be updated to reflect changes necessary to meet COVID 19 requirements.
- Each school must provide its coaches and athletic medical staff access to adequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves and face shields.
- Teams should enter and leave the field of play promptly without intermingling with spectators after competition.
- Pre and post-game interactions between competing teams and personnel as well as competing teams and fans should be limited as much as possible.
- 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.
- See the Guidance for Hydrating Athletes document posted to the MHSAA website
- It is an expectation member schools will comply with CDC, MDH, and local health agencies related to best practices for facilities.
- When possible, team bench areas should be arranged so access is for team personnel only. In addition, bench areas should accommodate proper physical distancing. When not feasible, other mitigation methods, such as facial coverings may be implemented.
- Revise team drop-off/pick-up procedures to allow for social distancing.
- Eliminate team walks through fan zones.
- Use gofan.co for digital ticket sales.
- Establish designated parking areas for team buses/equipment trucks.
- Discourage congregating in parking lots before/after event.
- Address social distancing with tailgating.
- Host schools should communicate prior to an event the local restrictions regarding mitigation of COVID-19 to the visiting team, officials, media, fans, etc.
- Communication between member schools should also include, but is not limited to, information regarding parking, concessions, locker rooms, ticketing, payment methods, entrance/exit gates, band, cheerleaders, etc.
- Post new guidelines on school website & social media throughout the season.
- Re-assess current policies for inclement weather during an event.
- Host schools should provide contest officials an area to enter and exit separate from fans when possible. Officials should be provided a dressing and meeting area that has been cleaned and disinfected prior to their arrival that provides for appropriate spacing between individuals.
- Officials’ table should be limited to essential personnel which includes home team scorer and timer with a recommended distance of 3 to 6 feet between individuals. Visiting team personnel (scorer, statisticians, etc.) are not deemed essential and may need to find an alternative location. The number allowed at the officials’ table is determined by the space available at the table. When physical distancing cannot be maintained, facial coverings are suggested.
- Officials should have their own labeled, beverage container, and these should be brought onto the field or court for their use during time outs or breaks.
- Local school system and school administration may determine the safest way to travel to and from contests in accordance with CDC, MDH, and their local health department.
- When physical distancing cannot be maintained, facial coverings are suggested.
- Assigned seating is suggested.
- Prior to each spring sport championship schools will receive information concerning Covid-19 guidelines and presenting awards
- MHSAA bylaws allow non-traditional students (virtual) to participate in athletics if they have met all other MHSAA eligibility requirements.
- However, local school system(s) may have more restrictive guidelines. If a school or school system prohibits virtual school students from athletic/activity participation, it is a local school decision.
- Before a sports season begins, member schools who choose to participate must agree to abide by the following: In the event any contest is not played during the regular season or playoffs, the game will be a no-contest. For playoff seeding purposes, the game will be considered a forfeited game (loss) by the school team who chooses not to participate. The opponent will receive a “win” for the cancelled game.
- If a school chooses not to participate in a contest, the local school principal must notify the MHSAA Executive Director and opposing school in writing.
Strategies for effective and consistent cleaning regimens and masking policies to
Reduce the overall risk of transmission
Hygiene & Masking
- 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.
- All non-competing students, sideline personnel, officials, and game administrators should be masked at all times.
- Competing athletes should be allowed the option of wearing a mask during competition or working out.
- Students who are rotating out of competition, coaches, and sideline personnel should be masked.
- 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 can be slide down if desired during competition and slide up on the sideline while out of play.
- Teams will be responsible for supplying extra masks in the event one should become soiled, damaged, or lost during competition.
- Sport specific equipment changes, such as shields for the inside of the facemask in football helmets, are allowed, but must be NFHS approved models.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Host schools are required to keep a log of support personnel to show who has been screened.
- Host schools should designate specific entrances for different personnel groups (visiting teams, support personnel, officials, etc.).
- When physical distancing cannot be maintained facial coverings are suggested.
- It is suggested that students avoid close contact with others and maintain a physical distance of six feet or greater. Close contact is considered being within 6 feet for 15 minutes.
- Those who have been exposed to COVID-19 (regardless of where the exposure occurred) should follow protocols set forth by the CDC, MDH, and their local health department.
- Any student with a prior confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis should receive a negative COVID-19 by their medical provider before returning.
- Any time physical distancing cannot be maintained by students, coaches, spectators, etc. wearing a facial covering is suggested. This includes sidelines, benches, etc. for all contest participants.
- Only school personnel, certified coaches, athletic trainers, and student-athletes should be present during practices. Attendance of non-essential personnel is not recommended until further notice.
Strategies for a consistent isolation, contact reporting, quarantine, and return to play policy among all member schools
Isolation for Exposure or Close Contact
- Isolation for COVID 19: An athlete who has signs or symptoms of COVID 19, a known close contact, or an elevated temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit should be isolated from their team or activity until COVID 19 is ruled out.
- 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.
- To return to activity the student needs three things:
- A minimum of 48 hours must pass from symptom onset or exposure.
- 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 include test results.
- Absence of symptoms, without the use of medication to reduce their symptoms, for 24 hours
- 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 for students considered positive for COVID 19 and are not allowed to participate.
- If a student has undergone COVID 19 testing, they are prohibited from participation until their test results return, regardless of symptoms.
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.
- 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.
- 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 starts.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Return to play sooner than 14-day quarantine is not permitted.
- 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.
- Neither a negative antigen or PCR nasal swab, nor serological evidence of antibodies should not be included as a requirement to return to play.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
NOTE: Information contained within this document is best practices and is provided for general guidance only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice. The MHSAA will continue to work with state officials and other related agencies to determine potential modifications. As information and data are updated, the MHSAA will adjust accordingly.