COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – On Thursday, the SC High School League (SCHSL) released guidelines for the return of high school sponsored team sports.

According to SCHSL, the guidelines were created by “representatives from the League staff, SC Superintendents, member school athletics directors and coaches, and the SCHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMACH). The AccelerateED Task Force and DHEC have vetted the guidelines as well.

General guidelines to be followed throughout the entire process, according to SCHSL, include:

  • Self-isolation – if you are sick, stay home,
  • Practice social distancing of at least six feet distance to the greatest extent possible,
  • Wash hands frequently (20 seconds with soap and water or use of a sanitizer that contains at least 60%
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects (e.g., keyboards, phones) and surfaces (e.g., handrails,
    workstations, sinks) or remove unnecessary frequently touched surfaces (e.g., trash can lids),
  • Avoid touching of eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands,
  • Strongly consider wearing a cloth face covering when in public (do not use on children under two years
    old, people with difficulty breathing or people who cannot remove the mask themselves)
  • Cover mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and throw used tissues away immediately after use,
  • Avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment when possible, or
    disinfect them before and after use,
  • Minimize the use of soft surfaces like cloth-covered chairs or area rugs that are more difficult to clean or

In addition to the above, more detailed guidelines have been established. The return will come in phases, with phase one incorporating social distancing, temperature screenings, and face coverings, among other precautions. SCHSL lists the following:

  • Maintain minimum physical distancing of six feet between participants at all times.
  • Daily health screening of athletes, coaches, and staff by a healthcare professional or designated full-time district/school employee. If an individual answer YES to any of these questions, then
    they cannot participate on that day:
    • Fever at 100.4 or higher in the past 72 hours?
    • Cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat or new loss of taste or smell, vomiting or
    • Contact with a person known to be infected with COVID-19 with the previous 14 days?
    • Compromised immune system or chronic diseases?
  • Temperature screening will be done on each athlete, coach and staff daily by a healthcare
    professional or designated fulltime district/school employee. If temperature is equal to or
    greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, then that individual will not be allowed to stay on site.
  • Face coverings that completely cover the nose and mouth are required for everyone.
    • Athletes
      • Must wear a face covering when not actively participating in the sports activity.
      • Face covering or masks should be worn in sports where the covering is not
      • Face coverings should not be shared. Non-disposable face coverings should be
        cleaned and disinfected daily.
    • Coaches and Staff
      • Must wear a face covering at all times while on site.
  • Athletes, coaches and staff should come dressed for participation.
  • Use of locker rooms and/or offices is prohibited during Phase 1.
  • Bathroom access will be limited to every other stall, with no more people allowed inside than
    the number of stalls in use.
  • Alcohol based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol or adequate hand washing facilities
    should be provided for all participants.
  • Weight rooms, restrooms, meeting rooms and other multi-use facilities that include high touch
    surfaces should be sanitized frequently during each event. Shared equipment should be cleaned and disinfected in between each user.
  • Individuals should bring a personal water bottle to each workout and not share this bottle with
    anyone. Disposable cups should be used for those that do not have access to their own water
    bottle. Use of communal water fountains is not recommended.
  • Personal contact should be avoided at all times. This includes, but is not limited to: huddles,
    high- fives, handshaking, fist-bumping, and chest-bumping.
  • Times for starting and ending workouts should be staggered among multiple sports teams to
    avoid having large numbers of athletes in the same location at the same time.
  • Signs must be posted at the front entrance to alert athletes, coaches and staff not to enter the
    facility if they have had known exposure to someone with Covid-19 in the past 14 days or have
    symptoms such as cough, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell.
  • Signs must be posted at all building entrances advising the public that they may wish to refrain
    from entering if they are 65 years of age or older or have underlying health conditions including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, severe obesity, asthma or weakened immunity.
  • No spitting of sunflower seeds, tobacco or sputum is allowed on site.
  • If spectators are permitted to attend, they should remain in an area that provides a reduced
    opportunity for transmission of any illness while providing an opportunity to observe. Maintain 6 ft. social distancing to the greatest extent possible. Face coverings should be worn in spectator area if at all possible.
  • Team competition is prohibited.
  • Conditioning and Sports Specific Skill Development may occur if the following conditions are implemented, in addition to the General Guidelines:
    • Group size should be limited to 10 persons per facility including athletes, coaches and staff whenever in an indoor or outdoor space.
    • No balls or sports equipment for first 10 days of workouts or 14 calendar days to minimize common contact points. Beginning with 11th day of workouts or 15th calendar day, properly cleaned and sanitized balls and sports equipment may be used. Must maintain 6ft. social distancing.
    • When using weight rooms, practicing calisthenics, running, or other conditioning training where vigorous exercise occurs, proper spacing from others must be maintained by working out with 12 feet minimum between each person. (This may require closing or moving some equipment).
    • Stunting would not meet social distancing guidelines, therefore would not be allowed during Phase 1.
  • Consider the use of a digital thermometer to check temperature athletes, coaches and staff. If a touch thermometer is used, it must be disinfected between individuals.
  • Consider COVID-19 testing for any athlete, coach, and/or staff that fails the screening process not to return until tested negative or a note from a health care provider other than an athletic trainer.
  • Athletic Training Rooms should only be used for immediate care or emergencies.
  • Student Athletes should remain with their assigned groups during each workout and during daily workouts to limit the number of people they come in contact with.
  • Appropriate time be given between use of facilities to allow for thorough sanitation of the facility and equipment.
  • Use of communal water devices is not recommended and any non-disposable water bottles or cups should be sanitized thoroughly prior to re-use. Best practice is for athletes to bring their own water.
  • Priority of facilities should be given to fall sports athletes if at all possible.
  • Consideration should be given to the number of athletes, coaches and staff allowed on campus each day to ensure that the facility can be cleaned thoroughly, and risk of transmission is reduced. Building occupancy should not exceed 20% of the number of people allowed by the fire marshal.
  • Create and request athletes, coaches and/or staff to sign “Assumption of Risk” form prior to participation.

In the coming weeks, SCHSL will evaluate and release guidelines for phase two. According to SCHSL, “phase two will include less restrictive measures such as allowing sports to conduct modified competition. Phase three will include returning to normal operations.”