NCAA examines resuming competition amid spread of COVID-19

NCAA examines resuming competition amid spread of COVID-19
Posted at 6:44 PM, May 04, 2020

After the NCAA abruptly ended all competitions for the 2019-20 academic year on March 12, the NCAA has put forth guidelines on how to proceed with competitions during the fall.

While the NCAA goes on hiatus during summer break, collegiate athletics are scheduled to resume in August. Losing out on revenue from college football for many major collegiate programs could cause many athletic departments economic distress.

But whether most college will have in-person classes is still up in the air. While some college presidents have committed to fully reopening in the fall, others have discussed extending online only education into the 2020-21 academic year.

Because of varying rates of coronavirus spread, 50 states operating off different guidelines, and the possibility that some universities might not hold in-person classes, resuming college athletics could be more challenging than professional sports.

“It is also important to take into consideration that there will not be a quick, single day of re-emergence into society,” NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said. “We will re-emerge in a manner that recognizes COVID-19 will be around until there is an effective vaccine, treatment or both. That is why resocialization should be rolled out in a phased way that helps assure sustained low infection spread, as well as aids in the ability to quickly diagnose and isolate new cases.”

Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said in April that if mass gatherings continue to be prohibited, it would not make sense for college athletes to play in front of spectators.

“I figured if we don't have fans in the stands, we've determined it's not safe for them in a gathering environment,” Smith said. “So why would it be safe for the players?"

  1. In recent weeks, several major Division I universities, including Purdue and Texas Tech, have announced plans to hold in-person classes in the fall.

The NCAA has issued nine key points to follow in order to resume play:

  1. There must not be directives at the national level that preclude resocialization.
  2. State and local authorities must have in place a plan for resocialization.
  3. There should be a plan in place at the university/college level for resocialization of students. In keeping with the federal guidelines, universities should consider guidance provided to employers to develop and implement appropriate policies regarding the following: Social distancing and protective equipment; Temperature checks; Testing and isolating; Sanitation; Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas; School business travel; Monitoring of the workforce for indicative symptoms and preventing symptomatic people from physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider; Workforce contact tracing after an employee’s positive test for COVID-19.
  4. There must be a plan in place at the university/college level for resocialization of student-athletes within athletics. In keeping with the federal guidelines, athletics should practice the following: All student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should practice good hygiene; All student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should stay home if they feel sick; Guidance noted above for university employees should be in place within athletics.
  5. There must be adequate personal protective equipment for athletics health care providers, and there must be sanitizers to manage infection control in all shared athletics space.
  6. There must be the ability to assess immunity to COVID-19 at a regional and local level. This could include immunity at the college campus, plus a more focused assessment of herd immunity for athletics teams.
  7. There must be access to reliable, rapid diagnostic testing on any individual who is suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms.
  8. There must be in place a local surveillance system so that newly identified cases can be identified promptly and isolated, and their close contacts must be managed appropriately.
  9. There must be clearly identified and transparent risk analyses in place. Such risk analyses consider issues such as economics, education, restoration of society, and medical risk of sport participation, including COVID-19 infection and possible death.