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Back in play: NET schools to open practice facilities June 1

Douglas Fritz • Updated May 18, 2020 at 3:04 PM

High school athletics took the first step toward getting back in action Monday as the Northeast Tennessee Return to Action Plan was officially approved by directors of schools.

Currently scheduled to take effect on June 1, the plan covers schools from Mountain City down to Morristown. School facilities have been shut down since mid-March because of the global pandemic.

Science Hill athletic director Keith Turner, who led the presentation of the plan to school directors, said this is an important step.

“People are so guarded and overly cautious, I think the first step is critical,” Turner said. “People across the state are looking at this same type of plan. I think it is a positive step.”

Turner said the plan will be evaluated each Wednesday as administrators continue to monitor things. He said the original May 26 date is still a possibility.

One of the main parts of the plan is student-athletes going through a series of steps before they can participate in practices.

“Every day they will sign in,” said Turner. “Their temperature will be taken and they will be asked a series of questions. If they answer yes to certain ones, they will immediately be sent home.”

When practices begin, there will be nine athletes per coach. On the football field, there would be nine athletes and a coach on one side of the field, a buffer zone, and nine athletes and a coach on the other side.

Turner said the coaches at Science Hill are looking forward to the opportunity.

“They just want to get going,” he said. “Something is better than nothing right now.”

Turner said it will take some trust on the part of the community.

“Parents will have to trust we will do what we say, and we will follow these safety measures,” he said. “And if a kid decides not to participate for whatever reason, there won’t be pressure on them or repercussions.”

Student-athletes will be kept in the same nine-person group for all practices. This will allow for easier contact tracing if it is necessary.

Part of the overall direction of the plan is to position the region for a safe return to normal scholastic activities in the fall. It will include consistent symptom assessments, standard record keeping, safe equipment management, and maintaining flexibility for unforeseen circumstances.

Here are some other key details from the guidelines:

— Students with risk factors may not participate in activities.

— Parent or guardian of the student must sign consent-to-participate-in-activity form.

— Students and instructors must have pre-activity symptom evaluation each day of attendance.

SYMPTOM ASSESSMENTS

All students and instructors will have their temperature taken each day. Any student or instructor with a fever of 100 degrees or greater will return home immediately. Students unable to leave immediately will be kept separate from the group.

The student or instructor must be temperature free for three days before returning to workouts. A return-to-activities verification form must be completed by the parent or guardian.

Students will be asked:

— Do you have an unexplained cough?

— Do you have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing?

— Have you been out of the county in the last 14 days? If yes, when and where?

— Have you been around anyone who has had COVID-19?

— Have you had COVID-19?

COVID-19 EXPOSURE PROTOCOL

If a student or instructor is known to have been in contact with someone who has or has had COVID-19, the student or instructor will not attend activities for two weeks after the last contact with the affected individual.

The student or instructor must have been symptom free for the entirety of the two weeks.

If the student or instructor develops symptoms, then the individual will follow the guidelines for a student or instructor that has been infected.

COVID-19 INFECTION WITH SYMPTOMS

If a student or instructor has been diagnosed with COVID-19, there will be a symptom-based strategy.

Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:

At least 72 hours have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms; and, at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

COVID-19 ASYMPTOMATIC INFECTION

If a student or instructor has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but was asymptomatic, there will be a time-based strategy.

Persons with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who have not had any symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:

At least 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test. If they develop symptoms, then the symptom-based or test-based strategy should be used.

STUDENT/INSTRUCTOR MANAGEMENT

Only school personnel and students will be allowed in facilities.

Social distancing of at least six feet will be maintained at all times. There will be no physical contact of any kind among activity participants.

Students must arrive to activities dressed. No changing facilities will be provided.

Some activities may require use of a mask. The instructors will notify students of these activities.

FACILITY MANAGEMENT

Activity groups will be separated with sufficient buffer zones between groups if in the same areas.

No locker rooms will be available. Activity groups will be assigned specific parking areas, if possible. Parking lots will be monitored to ensure no gathering of students.

A restroom plan will be in place limiting the number of students in the restroom at one time. Indoor facilities that have been used will be cleaned and sanitized between group sessions.

EQUIPMENT MANAGEMENT

Students will not share equipment that has not been sanitized. School equipment will be sanitized before use by different athletes.

Students will use only equipment that can be used safely without aid of a spotter.

Students will bring their own water bottles or will obtain a disposable bottle of water from their instructor.

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