LHSAA releases COVID-19 action plan
LAPLACE — With high school teams in the River Parishes easing into fall sports, families must stay abreast of steps that should be taken if an individual tests positive or shows symptoms of COVID-19 before, during or after an athletic contest.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association released updated fall sports guidelines on Sept. 16 with support from the National Federation of High School Associations, the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and local health officials.
All sports are required to complete a screening process and temperature checks for athletes, coaches and game personnel prior to competition. Symptomatic individuals with a presumed or confirmed case of COVID-19 are expected to self-isolate. According to the LHSAA, “For cases that arise during competition, the athlete needs to be promptly isolated and contact traced to quarantine close contacts, and that information should be shared with the current opponent and officials to aide in decisions about how to proceed with that competition.”
The opposing team must be notified if an individual is found to be COVID-positive or having COVID-19 symptoms within a 48-hour period after a game in order to facilitate contact tracing.
Symptomatic individuals with suspected or confirmed cases of infection will be excluded from competition until he or she has surpassed 24 hours without fever, without the use of fever-reducing medication. According to the LHSAA, at least 10 days must have passed since symptoms first appeared, and a return-to-participation assessment and cardiac work-up must be completed before the individual can return to play.
Individuals may have a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 without any symptoms. The LHSAA states a time-based strategy will be used in these cases to exclude the individual from participation until 10 days have passed since the date of his or his first positive COVID-19 test.
Contact tracing is to be implemented for individuals who are considered to be close contacts to the infected person. Close contact refers to being less than six feet away from the infected person for more than 15 minutes, regardless of mask use or direct physical contact. These individuals will also be required to quarantine, using the time-based strategy.
“The LHSAA understands that there are student-athletes that have underlying conditions that could significantly increase the risk of contracting and transmitting the virus,” the Louisiana High School Athletic Association stated in a recent press release. “All student-athletes and their families should discuss their medical conditions with their family healthcare providers.”
The LHSAA also released guidelines on cheer, dance and band, since these auxiliary groups are part of the traditional high school football game night experience.
The LHSAA reported this week that bands can resume practicing with instruments indoors in Louisiana’s Phase Three Reopening. While at football games, bands, fans, cheer groups and players must maintain a safe distance from one another. Cheer, dance and bands will enter and exit the field through end zones rather than player benches, and all participants must wear a face covering at all times except whole performing on the field. The cheer, dance and band members are included in the local occupancy guidelines, which are capped at 50 percent stadium capacity.
As a reminder, football jamborees and 7-on-7 practices will not take place during the 2020 Football Season. Scrimmages will be played from Sept. 24-26, and regular season varsity, junior varsity and freshman football games will commence the week of October 1.
Face coverings will be worn on the sideline and during the coin toss, pre-game, half time and post-game meetings. Personnel in the coaches’ conference will be limited to referee, umpire and a representative from each team. The team box will be extended to the 15-yard lines to promote social distancing.
Helmet shields may substitute for face coverings on the sideline. Handshakes, hugs and other forms of touching shall not take place.
Heat and humidity timeouts will be implemented during the month of October 2020, according to the LHSAA. The break between the first and second quarter and the third and fourth quarter will be two minutes in length, and athletes must maintain social distancing from the team bench area during timeouts.
St. John the Baptist Parish coaches responded to football guidelines when they were released last week. Their reactions are included in this article.