Chapel Hill, N.C. — On Thursday, the N.C. High School Athletic Association released updated guidelines for the operation high school sports in North Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic, including guidelines specific to spectator attendance.
The ability to spectators to attend NCHSAA sanctioned events will be determined by guidance from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and executive orders from Governor Roy Cooper, the NCHSAA said.
Current guidelines from the state government mean outdoor facilities, such as parks, fields, and courts, can have 100 spectators per park, field, or court or 30 percent of the facility’s fire capacity, whichever is less. If there is no stated fire capacity, the calculation should be seven spectators per 1,000 square feet.
Indoor guidelines are more restrictive. For indoor courts and rooms, the number of spectators must be limited to 25 people.
Players, coaches, and support staff are not subject to the occupancy requirements, but it is important to note that individual counties, districts, or municipalities may have more restrictive requirements.
The NCHSAA will require cloth face coverings to be worn at all times at contests, with the exception being athletes who are actively involved in the contest. This includes student-athletes not actively playing, coaches, officials, event management staff, and spectators, among others.
Updated protocols for athletes and coaches who may be exposed to COVID-19
In the event a person on a team or a member of the coaching staff tests positive for COVID-19, the NCHSAA has established uniform guidelines for schools to follow.
Anyone on the team who has had close contact with the infected person, meaning within six feet for more than 15 minutes, or anyone who had direct person-to-person contact or was coughed or sneezed on by the person who tested positive for the virus, must quarantine at home until 14 days since the last exposure took place.
While quarantining, people should check their temperature and watch for symptoms of COVID-19 while staying away from people who may be at higher-risk of becoming severely ill from the virus.
Schools are also asked to coordinate with their local health departments for additional guidance. Health departments will assist with contact tracing in the event of a positive case.
In order to resume workouts, an athlete, coach, or staff member who tests positive must meet each of the following criteria:
- At least 10 days must have passed since receiving a positive test or diagnosis
- There must be no fever or use of fever-reducing medicine for at least 24 hours since the recovery
- Other symptoms must be improving.
- A “Return to Play” form must be completed by a licensed health care provider
Modifications for cross country, swimming, and volleyball
The NCHSAA has also released information specific to individual sports, with detailed information for cross country, swimming & diving, and volleyball, the first three sports to begin regular seasons in November.
In each of the three sports, pre and post ceremonies must maintain social distancing guidelines and handshakes have been eliminated. Coaches and officials are required to wear cloth face coverings at all times, and while face coverings are permitted for students during competition, they are not required during competition but are required when student-athletes are not actively competing. Each student is responsible for their own water bottle, towe.s, hand sanitizer, and other personal items.
For cross country, cloth face coverings must be worn to the start area, and the NCHSAA recommends runners have a way to keep their face covering with them during the race, even if they’re not wearing it. Designated team areas must be created where teams will remain when nor warming up, racing, or cooling down. Only coaches and athletes are permitted in the designated team area.
In swimming & diving, multiple warm-up periods should be established to limit the number of swimmers in a lane, and the number of divers during warm-ups should also be limited. Teams are required to sit on opposite sides of the pool with the home team using lanes 1-3 and the visiting team using lanes 4-6. Schools are limited to two coaches for swimming & diving, text messages may be used to notify people of disqualification, swimmers can only bring race equipment to the starting block, and once the last swimmer has ended an individual race, all swimmers must swim to the turn end of the course and exit the pool. For a relay, each swimmer of the first three legs must exit the pool and leave the starting area, while the last swimmer will exist at the turn end.
Additionally, swimmers cannot move behind the blocks until the last swimmer in the previous race has started, school personnel must stay in a designated team area unless they are actively competing or warming up, and electronic whistles may be used by officials.
There are a number of modifications for volleyball as well.
Pre-match conferences will be held at center court with one coach and one referee on each side of the net. A coin toss will determine who serves and receives with each coach and referee separated on each side of the net. Additionally, roster submission at the pre-match conference has been suspended and the rosters will be submitted to the officials table before the 10-minute mark.
Between set changes and during timeouts, game balls are to be disinfected. Visiting teams must bring their own balls to warm up with and can bring game balls to assist with the rotation of disinfected balls. Teams will not switch benches between sets. However, if there is determined to be a clear disadvantage by the officials, teams can switch benches but must adhere to all social distancing protocols.
For a deciding set, the coin toss will be held at center court with one captain or coach per team and the second referee maintaining social distance of at least six feet.
When substitutions take place, six feet of distance should be maintained between the players and the second referee and the two players involved in the substitution. Substitutions should occur within the substitution zone closer to the attack line and player should limit contact while switching during a substitution.
Workout changes for football, lacrosse
There were also some changes for football. Helmets can be worn for workouts once a school has completed at least two weeks of workouts. However, the NCHSAA rule requiring a licensed athletic trainer be present if any protective equipment is worn remains in effect. The use of any other protective equipment outside of helmets is not allowed.
Similar to football, lacrosse players will be permitted to wear helmets, goggles, gloves, chest protectors, and a mouth guard during workouts.