Special Care Should be Taken to Protect Students and Student-Athletes
As Oklahoma government officials move our state into “Phase 2” of reopening after COVID-19, it is important for us to maintain safe practices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued recommendations recently for those communities who are considering opening schools and events.
The link – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html – on the CDC website recommends “schools can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials to the extent possible, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.”
They also recommend that “these considerations are meant to supplement – not replace – any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which schools must comply.”
This is especially important with the plan that the Oklahoma Secondary Sports Athletic Association considered on Friday for phased return to practices, which they defeated by one vote.
Their tentative plan was to open programs back up in some capacity on June 1, allowing coaches and athletes to have limited contact. Then on June 15, weight rooms could open with strict social distancing guidelines in place. Then a third phase would come toward the end of summer. This was all contingent upon no further waves of outbreak from COVID-19 and will likely be re-visited by OSSAA in about a month.
We ask that they and each school consider these CDC recommendations:
- Promote healthy hygiene practices such as hand washing and employees wearing a cloth face covering, as feasible.
- Intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation of facilities and transport vehicles/buses.
- Encourage social distancing through increased spacing, small groups, and limited mixing between groups, and staggered scheduling, arrival, and drop off, if feasible.
- Where feasible, adjust activities and procedures to limit sharing of items such as toys, belongings, supplies, and equipment.
- Train all employees on health and safety protocols.
- Develop and implement procedures to check for signs and symptoms in children and employees daily upon arrival, as feasible.
- If feasible, implement enhanced screening for children and employees who have recently been present in areas of high transmission, including temperature checks and symptom monitoring.
- Encourage anyone who is sick to stay home.
- Plan for if children or employees get sick.
- Regularly communicate and monitor developments with local authorities, employees, and families regarding cases, exposures, and updates to policies and procedures.
- Monitor child and employee absences and have a pool of trained substitutes, and flexible leave policies and practices.
- Be ready to consult with the local health authorities if there are cases in the facility or an increase in cases in the local area.
OICA also asks schools, once things reopen, to consider staggering practice times for those families that have loved ones in close contact to one another in high-risk categories. Student athletes could transfer the illness before symptoms show up. With the large number of grandparents raising grandchildren in our state, this is an extremely important issue. Schools also should not punish athletes who are unable to practice due to this circumstance.
While we are aware that people want to return to life as usual, please remember that precautions should still remain a top priority until a vaccine is developed to help curb the spread of this virus. While statistically it might look appealing to risk the odds, we want each of you who is susceptible to infection to not gamble with your life or others around you.