Professional sports leagues have all been mulling ways to resume their interrupted seasons, while NASCAR and UFC are among the first to return to competition this month. But when it comes to college sports, questions regarding when or how the NCAA might resume athletics nationwide have remained unanswered – until now.
A new document released by the NCAA Friday has outlined the necessary components required for college sports to resume. Among the most pressing is the ability to access reliable diagnostic tests that offer rapid results. Additionally, universities are expected to have agendas regarding temperature screenings, contact tracing, isolating those infected and supplying sufficient protective equipment to those providing health care to athletes.
“It is also important to take into consideration that there will not be a quick, single day of re-emergence into society,” NCAA chief medical officer Dr. Brian Hainline said in a statement. “We will re-emerge in a manner that recognizes COVID-19 will be around until there is an effective vaccine, treatment or both. That is why resocialization should be rolled out in a phased way that helps assure sustained low infection spread, as well as aids in the ability to quickly diagnose and isolate new cases.”
Those phases of resocialization on campuses all come in accordance with federal guidelines and begins with continued physical distancing, minimal nonessential traveling and avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people unless proper physical distancing and sanitation measures can be taken.
The second phase would begin if COVID-19 cases and hospitalization decline for at least 14 days. That phase would see nonessential travel resume while physical distancing would still be ongoing and vulnerable persons should shelter-in-place. The third and final phase would allow athletes, coaches and other personnel to resume in-person interactions, unrestricted staff to resume their jobs and gyms and common areas to reopen under proper sanitary measures.
The timeline and practice of these phases will vary locally based on each institution. The NCAA has faced an unprecedented absence of athletics due to the pandemic, having cancelled the remainder of winter sports competitions in March and the entirety of the spring sports season.