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Larry Gene Grubbs
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UIL implements COVID-19 guidelines

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Face coverings, 50% capacity among HS sports guidelines

 

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MABANK–The University Interscholastic League (UIL) last week released its plans for the 2020-21 high school sports schedules. Local schools in the Henderson and Kaufman County areas won’t be affected by new schedules as much. Schools classified as 1A-4A will start their seasons on time with 5A and 6A schools pushing their schedules back to late September.
The only change coming to 1A-4A schools is that football scrimmages will begin Aug. 20 instead of Aug. 14, meaning just one scrimmage per team instead of two scrimmages. Along with schedule changes, the UIL also released COVID-19 mitigation guidelines for all sports that will apply to the 2020-21 school year and will go into effect Aug. 1. These guidelines include guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as well as Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-29 regarding face coverings will apply to all UIL activities and that order went into effect July 3. Should the public health situation change, at any time, the guidelines could be modified to coincide with local health orders.
Under Executive Order GA-29:
1. Face coverings include non-medical grade disposable face masks, cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth) or full-face shields to protect eyes, nose and mouth. Face shields may be superior to cloth face coverings in many circumstances, given improved ability to see mouth movements and improved air circulation.
2. All employees, parents, visitors and students ten years of age or older must wear face coverings or face shields upon entry to an area where UIL activities are being conducted and when not actively practicing or playing in the contest, unless an exception listed below applies.
3. The face coverings requirements do not apply to a school in a county that meets the requirements of paragraph 11 of Executive Order GA-29, unless the local school system chooses to implement these requirements locally. Even in these circumstances, the wearing of face coverings or face shields is strongly encouraged.
Exceptions to the wearing of face coverings or face shields include:
•Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
•While a person is consuming food or drink;
•While the person is in a swimming pool, lake or similar body of water.
•When a congregating group of persons maintains at least 6 feet of social distancing; or
•Any other reason or circumstance indicated under Executive Order GA-29.
Screening will be required before attending or participating in UIL activities. This applies to teachers, staff, visitors, athletes and media.
Regarding performance areas, band halls, locker rooms and other areas where congregations may happen:
1. Schools should make hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water or similar disinfectant readily available in these areas.
2. All congregate areas should be regularly and frequently cleaned and disinfected including all frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, chairs, lockers and restrooms.
3. Any equipment that will be kept in student lockers and/or in these areas should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected each day prior to students accessing these areas. Schools should develop a plan for managing the storage, cleaning and disinfecting and redistribution of student equipment.
4. Schools should consider identifying staff to monitor locker rooms and other areas where students may congregate to ensure effective use of school protocols. When possible, schools should open windows and/or doors or otherwise work to improve air flow by allowing outside air to circulate in these areas.
5. Schools must require staff and students to wear face coverings while inside locker rooms, meeting rooms, training rooms, band halls and other areas where students may congregate other than shower facilities.
6. As part of their overall plan, schools should develop a plan for mitigating risk of spreading COVID-19 when disinfecting, cleaning, and laundering items such as towels, practice clothes and uniforms. This plan should include protocols for redistributing these items to students. Involved staff should be trained specifically on these protocols.
In addition to the above general guidelines and rules in the UIL Constitution and Contest Rules and UIL manuals and handbooks, the following applies to practice activities during the 2020-2021 school year.
1. All surfaces in practice areas should be thoroughly disinfected throughout and at the end of each day.
2. Any equipment should be regularly disinfected before, during, and after practice sessions.
3. Schools may provide food, water or other drinks. If they provide these items, schools should do so in a manner that ensures students are not sharing these items.
A big portion of the mitigation guidelines includes 50% capacity for all extra-curricular activities for the 2020-21 school year. Schools may allow spectators to attend games, contests or events within a maximum 50% capacity limitation, provided that appropriate spacing between spectators is maintained according to the protocol, and according to the following:
1. Schools and/or host sites should post visible signs and/or messaging stating any individuals who are confirmed to have, suspected of having, are experiencing symptoms of or have been in close contact with an individual who has been confirmed to have COVID-19 should not enter the facility.
2. Spectators, audiences, fans and media are required to wear face coverings as described in Executive Order GA-29.
3. Sites are encouraged to utilize remote ticketing options to help manage capacity limitations within a maximum 50% occupancy. Paper tickets and programming should be minimized to help avoid transferable materials.
4. If possible, set reserved times for entry to avoid mass arrivals.
5. Groups should maintain at least six feet of distance from other groups at all times, including the process of admission and seating. A group is defined as no more than 10 people including the members of the household and those persons who traveled together to the facility.
6. Schools should not allow seating in consecutive rows and should block off seating to maintain a minimum six feet of distance between groups.
7. Pathways for spectator ingress and egress should be clearly marked and unobstructed.
8. Schools should provide hand sanitizing stations and/or hand washing stations at entrances and inside the facility.
9. Seating, hand rails and other common surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected prior to each game or contest.
10. Press Box seating should include social distancing of at least six feet between individuals when possible.
11. Schools should limit access to working media providing coverage of the event to ensure protocols are followed.
12. Post-game interviews should be conducted while wearing face coverings and maintaining at least six feet of distance between the interviewer and individual being interviewed.
Concession stands and food service will also be part of the guidelines implemented for this school year. For games, contests and events that will include concession stands or other food service, the following guidelines apply:
1. Staff, contractors and volunteers involved in food service are required to wear face coverings as described in Executive Order GA-29.
2. Sites should avoid leaving condiments, silverware, flatware, glassware or other traditional tabletop items on unoccupied tables or at the counter. Sites should only provide condiments or flatware upon request, and in single-use, individually wrapped items.
3. Regularly clean and disinfect the food service counters and areas. Clean and disinfect dining areas (tables, etc.) after each patron departs.
4. Limit contact between the individuals involved in food service and patrons as much as possible. Have employees, contractors, and volunteers follow proper food-handling protocols.
5. Before each game, schools should follow the screening protocols described above to screen staff, contractors and volunteers who will be involved in food service prior to events. These individuals should also self-screen as described in these screening protocols.