SEC sets conditions on what would cancel football games this season

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Building on return-to-play guidelines released by the NCAA last month, the SEC announced its own set of COVID-19 requirements for fall sports on Friday based on advice from the conference task force on the subject.

In the 12-page document, it is worth highlighting five conditions that the conference defined as “stop-play considerations” that could lead to the cancellation of fall sports like football.

These conditions are:

  • Inability to isolate new positive cases or quarantine high risk contacts of college student cases.
  • Unavailability or inability to perform symptomatic, surveillance or pre-competition testing when warranted.
  • Rate of campus-wide or local community-wide positivity tests considered unsafe by local public health officials.
  • Inability to conduct adequate contact tracing in accordance with local, state or federal requirements or recommendations.
  • Local public health officials say the hospital infrastructure is unable to cope with an increase in hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

Football – along with basketball, soccer and volleyball – was considered a “high risk” sport by the task force.

The SEC requires twice-weekly testing of soccer players, coaches and support staff on Sundays and Wednesdays before Saturday games. The league is also exploring a third test closer to match day that could generate a result in time to find out if anyone has been infected. Match officials will also be tested before traveling.

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Everyone on the sidelines will need to wear a mask and practice social distancing as much as possible, the SEC said. Players on the pitch will also need to wear neck guards that can cover their mouth and nose during stops and when talking to coaches. Officials will also be required to wear masks if they cannot physically gain distance during play.

Players with a confirmed infection, even those who are asymptomatic, will need to self-isolate for 10 days. Before resuming training or play, they will need a cardiac assessment and clearance from a team doctor, and will need to be resumed.

Anyone who has prolonged close contact – defined as greater than 15 minutes within six feet – with an infected person will be considered high risk and should be quarantined for 14 days, even if their test is negative during that time. The conference task force said further study was needed to find out whether the two people wearing masks would mitigate that risk.

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The league also requires those who handle game balls to do weekly tests and disinfect any balls that leave the playing field.

Dr Mike Goodlett of Auburn, the Chief Medical Officer and Team Physician, and Dr Jimmy Robinson of Alabama, the Team’s Chief Physician and Medical Director, are both members of the task force that meets weekly since April.

Mike Rodak is an Alabama Beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on twitter @mikerodak.

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