MHSAA’s ‘return to activity’ guidelines allow workouts to begin June 1

It’s been two months since high school sports in Mississippi were officially suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Mississippi High School Activities Association took steps Thursday to allow for summer workouts to begin. 

The MSHAA announced ‘return to activity’ guidelines and after “thorough study and deliberation as well as recommendations from medical professionals” across the state, the MHSAA Executive Committee approved the following for summer athletics and activities, effective June 1 and for Summer 2020 only:

  • School athletics and fine arts activity programs can begin summer practices, workouts, skill development, weightlifting, conditioning and rehearsals for student-athletes and fine arts participants on June 1, pending Gov. Tate Reeves’ upcoming announcement on a date to reopen all Mississippi school facilities. Athletic coaches and activity directors must confirm with their school and/or district administrators that a specific school facility is open and available for use.
  • Competition in athletics and activities between or among MHSAA member or non-member schools and/or teams is cancelled until school resumes in the fall.
  • All practices, workouts, skill development, weightlifting, conditioning and rehearsals shall be considered voluntary for student-athletes and activities participants.
  • School team and school activities participation and travel to summer programs and/or team camps are not allowed. On-campus summer programs and/or school camps should adhere to national, state and local COVID-19 health recommendations.

“Once again, we appreciate the effort, hard work and leadership of our 15-member Executive Committee of school administrators in making difficult decisions during these uncertain times,” MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said. “The support of our MHSAA member schools has been greatly appreciated as well. Our highest priority is and always will be the safety, health and welfare of Mississippi’s students, educators and communities. We will continue to assess new information and develop plans for the upcoming 2020-21 fall sports and activities seasons. Weekly updates will be provided to help our member schools as we look forward to the new school year of sports and activities.

The full set of guidelines, which can be viewed here, includes measures to minimize contact and to encourage additional sanitation efforts. Following the long layoff from athletic activity, the plan also places an emphasis on allowing for an acclimation period, during which “the focus should remain on conditioning and returning to physical fitness.”

A portion of the guidelines can be viewed below.

General Recommendations:

  • Summer activities should focus, in order, on acclimatization, reintroduction to high-level exercise and training in sport-specific activities. All activity resumption must follow national, state, local and MHSAA Covid-19 guidelines. Please note these guidelines may be subject to frequent change. It is the organizing coach’s responsibility to monitor and follow these guidelines.
  • No student shall be punished or restricted from participation in future and/or current activities due to non-participation in offseason activities as a result of parental/guardian restrictions or personal/medical reasons. School districts, athletic directors and coaches must recognize each student has different circumstances that may create an unreasonable risk for him or her to participate.
  • Distance or virtual workouts and summer development programs remain highly encouraged as this method continues to be the safest way to protect both students and staff during this time of transition.
  • Due to group size restrictions and individual risk factors precluding some athletes from participating at this time, we recommend delaying the resumption of team tryouts until the start of the 2020-21 school year. Tryouts must follow established MHSAA guidelines.

Screening and Care Plan

  • All facilities, both indoors and outdoors, should have highly visible signage stating common COVID-19 symptoms as information and reminders for coaches, students and parents/guardians. Individuals should not be allowed to enter the facility or workout space if they meet any symptom or have a potential exposure.
  • Coaches should regularly confirm the availability of access to hand-washing facilities, hand sanitizer and cleaning materials at these locations.
  • Each school must provide its athletic medical staff access to adequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves and face shields
  • Each school, working with its athletic medical staff or state/local medical personnel, should develop a response plan for ill and/or suspected COVID-19 student-athletes. A COVID-19 response plan should at minimum include:

Criteria for testing as well as community resources for testing and evaluation

Standard quarantine periods in the event of a symptomatic patient (with or without a positive test) or an asymptomatic patient with a positive test. It is recommended these quarantines follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) guidelines

These CDC and MSDH guidelines dictate a 14-day quarantine with at least 72 hours symptom-free before returning to activity in the case of a patient with a positive test

In the case of a person with a fever, a minimum of 72 hours restriction from activity with at least 24 hours of absence of fever is recommended before return to activity. If the athlete, coach or administrator has symptoms after 72 hours they should be retested for COVID-19

  • All coaches, students, athletics healthcare providers and other personnel should practice adequate hygiene, including frequent hand washing, frequent cleaning of surfaces and equipment and covering the mouth during coughs and sneezes

Contact and Competition

  1. All athletics and activities should be modified to encourage the reduction and elimination of physical contact.
  2. Competition in athletics and activities between or among MHSAA member or non-member schools and/or teams is cancelled until school resumes in the fall.