Alachua County high school athletes who leave the field or court after a game are receiving little to no instruction from the CDC or FHSAA on the importance of protecting friends and family from possible COVID-19 exposure after sporting events.
Alachua County schools have been referring to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s (FHSAA) recommendations for mitigating the spread of the virus before and during events with detail. But while the post-game instructions include recommended strategies for on the field, buses and locker rooms, there is no mention of face masks or distancing efforts that should be considered after the game when it comes to interacting with family members and other social behavior after each event.
According to Alachua County Administrator of the Florida Department of Health Paul Myers, the highest spread of COVID-19 in Alachua County is happening between household and family members.
His advice to athletes is, “I think that those that live with particularly vulnerable people should take extra precautions including considering not participating in high risk transmission activities.
“If they do, then keeping distance when at home, monitoring/screening for symptoms, and getting tested are all appropriate mitigation strategies.”
The current post-game considerations from the FHSAA are:
- No Handshakes after the game.
- Post-game meeting on field with social distance protocols for instructions.
- Players are to exit the field immediately after post game meeting and prepare to ride home. DO NOT go to the sidelines and talk with family or friends.
- No family and friends allowed on the field.
- Dirty cloth will be placed in a bag for the ride home.
- All clothes will go home with players when they return to school unless school is laundering cloth.
- Locker room will be sanitized following the departure of team members.
- Schools that launder uniforms or pay to have them laundered must place uniforms in closed containers.
According to UF Health’s Dr. Kathleen Ryan, who is the co-chief and clinical associate professor for Pediatrics Infectious Diseases, the CDC has a lot of pre game and practice mitigation considerations and no mention of post-game mitigation.
“It’s going to be sports dependent depending on the level of interaction,” Dr. Ryan said about how each sport has a different level of risk to exposure. Sports such as gymnastics and tennis where competition happens as a mostly individual effort would possibly have limited exposure to viruses than for athletes playing basketball or football face off and have contact throughout the game.
“If you have a close-contact sport, it is wise to practice good social distancing and masking policies all of the time,” Dr. Ryan said. “But it’s even more important for students and athletes to practice them after a game when they could have a potential exposure situation.”
Ryan reviewed both the CDC and FHSAA recommended protocols for slowing the spread of COVID-19 and agrees that there is a gap in recommendations for post-game mitigation behavior.
The CDC has a lot of pre-game and practice and even sideline game recommendations,” Ryan said. “They don’t have any post-game mitigation specific for people who are playing games.
“We do know that family transmission is the highest risk of transmission,” Dr. Ryan said. “If you’re going to go home with your mom in the car after a game, they might want to consider wearing a mask, socially distancing at home.”
For those fans, players and schools who have decided not to adopt the recommended mitigation efforts by the CDC or the FHSAA, most likely will ignore any post-game recommendations as well, Dr. Ryan said.
“If people are going to the game knowing that they should be socially distancing and masking and they’re not even wearing masks and socially distancing, then I’m not sure they’re really going to care when they go home.”
Click here to see the current FHSAA guidelines for helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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