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WIAA releases ‘return to play’ guidelines for high school sports

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Madison (WQOW) - Will high school sports return in the fall? It is a question on the minds of a lot of students and parents alike. Now, the WIAA is giving some guidance before athletes hit the gyms and fields.

In guidelines released on Thursday the WIAA says it is "essential to the physical and mental well-being of student-athletes in grades 6-12 to return to organized physical activity and build team relationships with their peers and coaches."

While sports may be allowed to return for some in the fall they will look a lot different.

The WIAA says social distancing and face coverings should be considered the "new normal" moving forward.

Summer sports participation may begin July 1, but there are different risk levels based on the sport and the location.

The WIAA says "risk levels," which are outlined below, are developed by the CDC. Local health departments are to be consulted to determine the risk level.

For instance:

  • A high-risk level means no more than 10 people are allowed to gather at a time. Those 10 people should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, locker rooms are not be used and people must stay six feet apart. If the six-foot rule cannot be followed the sport is not allowed. That means a player may shoot a basketball in a practice setting but the ball may not be passed to other teammates. A football may not be snapped or passed to other players. The same rule goes for volleyball and other sports which use a single ball.
  • A moderate risk level means no more than 10 people may gather indoors but outdoor gatherings can be increased to 50 people. Players and coaches should still be screened for COVID-19. In this risk level, locker rooms may be used but social distancing should be enforced. A single ball may also be used and passed between players as long as the players sanitize their hands and the ball before use. Football players can also participate in team drills in this risk level, however contact with other players is not allowed.
  • A low risk level allows gatherings of 50 people inside and outside. Here, a record should be kept of everyone who is present. "Moderate risk" sports may begin practices and competitions.
  • Finally, there is the lowest risk level which has no limits on gathering size. Still, social distancing is to be enforced and a record of those present needs to be kept. In the lowest risk category, all sports and practices may begin.

The WIAA is also breaking down potential risk by sport.

  • Higher-risk sports include those that involve "close, sustained contact between participants and a lack of protective barriers." The WIAA says these sports include wrestling, football, boys lacrosse, rugby, competitive cheer and dance.
  • Moderate-risk sports include those that involve "close, sustained contact but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission." The WIAA says these sports include basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, soccer, gymnastics, hockey, tennis, swimming relays, pole vault, high jump, long jump, girls lacrosse and seven-on-seven football.
  • Lower-risk sports are those that can done while socially distanced or without sharing equipment. The WIAA says those sports are individual running events, throwing events, individual swimming, golf, weightlifting, alpine skiing, sideline cheer, and cross country running.

The WIAA says social distancing must be considered for transportation and on sidelines or benches.

So, who will be allowed to attend sporting events? The WIAA says schools are to group people ino tiers.

  • Athletes, coaches, officials and staff are considered tier one.
  • Tier two is the media.
  • Tier three includes spectators and vendors.

You can read the entire guidance document here.

Clint Berge

Clint Berge is the Social Media & Digital Content Manager for Eau Claire’s Own WQOW News 18.
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