In-Person Activities and Athletics

July 2020 | 0 Comments  Average 4.5 out of 5

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This year, institutions conducting in-person activities and athletics should take extra precautions to protect students.

Institutions returning to campus this fall will face the hard decision of whether to allow in-person student activities such as clubs and athletics. When making this decision, weigh the activities’ importance to students’ personal growth and educational experience against the health, safety, and liability risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider the following precautions for keeping your in-person student activities and athletics safe. 

Make Participation Phased and Voluntary

Before restarting in-person student activities: 

  • Consider a phased return. Resume activities in phases based upon potential risk of transmission in each activity.
  • Communicate with students and parents. Share the final resumption plan with all activity participants and parents, as applicable. 
  • Make in-person participation voluntary. Inform participants that participation is optional, and that choosing to participate virtually or in person during the pandemic will not affect their future ability to participate in person.

Create an Activity Resumption Plan

Develop a plan that outlines how you will restart any in-person activities. Present it to the COVID-19 action team overseeing your process of resuming operations. Request the team’s input.

Plans should detail activity modifications to meet campus safety requirements, including:

  • Require COVID-19 screening. Before starting the activity, screen each participant for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure.
  • Provide safe health screenings. For physical activities requiring an in-person health screening, stagger screenings to ensure physical distancing during waiting and examinations. This also will allow time to clean exam spaces between screenings.
  • Require masks. To further reduce exposure, require instructors and participants to wear cloth face covers when feasible.
  • Employ physical distancing measures in all shared spaces.
  • Require daily self-health evaluations. Require instructors and participants to perform self-health checks before entering any activity facility and report when they are sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Ensure that people with signs or symptoms immediately isolate and seek medical advice.
  • Follow governing body guidance. Follow resumption guidance the activity’s international, national, or regional governing body provide (if applicable).
  • Limit equipment sharing. When possible, provide all participants with their own equipment. If participants must share equipment, instruct them on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) procedures to effectively clean equipment between use. 

Follow Additional Considerations for Athletics Programs

When restarting athletics programs, take the following actions.

  • Create an athletics COVID-19 action team. The team should create an athletics action plan. The team should include the athletic director, head athletic trainer, head team physician, coaches, trainers, student health services representative, counseling services representative, and student-athletes.
  • Provide training. Educate students and staff on the high risk of COVID-19 transmission in athletic settings due to frequent physical contact, potential for aerosol transmission during exercise, and the potential physical effects of over-training and dehydration on disease resistance. For more on athletics COVID-19 prevention education, see the Korey Stringer Institute’s Return to Sports and Exercise During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Consider Enforcement Options

Consult with your institution’s resumption oversight team and legal counsel to determine whether these enforcement practices are right for your institution:

  • Collect a signed acknowledgment that students (and parents if applicable) read and understood the activity resumption plan.
  • Use assumption of risk language in an informational letter to explain to students and parents the risks involved with conducting in-person activities during a pandemic.
  • Create waiver language stating the risks of the in-person activity and releasing the institution from potential liability. For additional guidance on assumption of risk language and waivers, see United Educators’ Guide for Resuming On-Campus Operations.
  • Add a section to the student code of conduct stating required prevention behavior, health risks associated with violating the policies, and any related sanctions.

Additional Resources

Guidance for Resuming In-Person Activities
National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS): Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities 
NCAA: Resocialization of Collegiate Sport
American College Health Association (ACHA): Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era

Sample Activity Plans and Enforcement

Miami University: Student Organization Operations and Procedures for Fall 2020
Pasco County Schools: Athletics Waiver
Saint Joseph’s University: Athletics COVID-19 Plan
University of Louisville: COVID-19 Guidelines for Student Events

By Melanie Bennett, risk management counsel


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