SUBSCRIBE NOW

SEC sets COVID-19 management requirements for fall athletics season

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

This story originally published Aug. 7.

The Southeastern Conference has announced its initial COVID-19 management requirements for the fall athletics season as recommended by the SEC's Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.

Notable in the release were the conditions in which games could be cancelled or the season discontinued.

*Inability to isolate new positive cases, or quarantine high risk contacts of cases of university students.

*Unavailability or inability to perform symptomatic, surveillance or pre-competition testing when warranted.

*Campus-wide or local community positivity test rates that are considered unsafe by local public health officials.

*Inability to perform adequate contact tracing consistent with local, state or federal requirements or recommendations.    *Local public health officials indicate an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in COVID-19 related hospitalizations.

The SEC will move to a 10-game, conference-only football schedule this season.

The Task Force has been meeting frequently since April to review and discuss information associated with the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on developing policies and protocols to guide membership decisions related to the healthy return of athletics activities, including team gatherings, practices, conditioning and competition, for SEC student-athletes and others associated with SEC athletics programs.

"Our Medical Task Force is producing an effective strategy for testing and monitoring, which complements the vigilant day-to-day efforts of our campuses to establish and maintain healthy environments in which our student-athletes can train and compete," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "Our health experts have guided us though each stage of preparation for the safe return of activity and, together with the medical staffs embedded within our athletics programs, we will continue to monitor developments around the virus and evolve our plan to meet the health needs of our student-athletes."

The Task Force's initial requirements for fall SEC sports include testing requirements, procedures for infections and contact tracing, and protocols for quarantine and isolation. Similar requirements will be developed for other SEC sports before their competition seasons begin.

Other notes from the SEC release:

TESTING

The SEC will coordinate centralized testing through a third-party provider to ensure consistency in surveillance and pre-competition testing. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the current standard testing method for the COVID-19 virus. Alternative testing methods may be considered if sufficient data develops to support those methods.

In the sport of football, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, typically six days and three days prior to competition. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, in addition to the two required PCR tests, that will provide for the reliability and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing in a timeframe closer to competition.

In the sports of volleyball and soccer, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, with one to occur three days prior to the first competition of the week. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, in addition to the two required PCR tests, that will provide for the reliability and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing in a timeframe closer to the first competition of the week.

In the sport of cross country, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least once per week during competition, with that test to occur three days prior to each competition.

MASKING

In football, volleyball and soccer, all coaches, staff and non-competing personnel will be required to wear face coverings on the sideline and physical distancing will be employed to the extent possible.

OTHER NOTES

Each institution is required to designate a COVID-19 Protocol Oversight Officer who will be responsible for education and ensuring compliance with the SEC's COVID-19 management requirements.

The SEC announced in July that student-athletes in all sports who elect to not participate in intercollegiate athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team.