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Alabama schools, athletes encouraged to follow COVID protocol for fall sports

AHSAA and AISA are both recommending COVID-19 safety guidelines for Fall athletics.
AHSAA and AISA are both recommending COVID-19 safety guidelines for Fall athletics.(Source: CDC/WSFA)
Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 7:12 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Public and private school athletic programs are gearing up for the fall season, with COVID-19 safety recommendations in place.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association said it hopes to move forward - as planned - with complete athletic seasons.

“We’re going back to normal, but we also realize that there’s still a long road ahead of us,” assistant director Jeff Segars said.

AHSAA encourages coaches and athletes to follow Alabama Department of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Education guidelines. The organization recommends screening, cleaning, physical distancing, face coverings and other safety protocol.

The assistant director said it is up to school leaders to decide the best course of action for their area.

“Local schools, they need to have the ability to set up restrictions that fit their community,” Segars said. AHSAA is still encouraging safety protocols.

The group said schools hosting sporting events are responsible for providing a clean environment. It’s recommended team benches be arranged to limit access to team personnel.

Per the CDC, mask wearing applies to all forms of public transportation – which includes school and charter buses driving players.

AHSAA said it’s working with health professionals, like State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, to monitor coronavirus levels and guide decision making.

“It is constant discussions with the health officials of this state,” Segars said. “Looking at the new CDC guidelines, just like we ask our coaches and our member schools to do.”

The assistant director said it is all a balance of keeping athletes safe and still allowing them to experience fall sports.

“To give these kids a season, especially these seniors,” Segars said. “It’s about these kids and giving them the opportunity to compete.”

The Alabama Independent School Association said it sent out a list of best COVID-19 practices to its athletic member schools on Tuesday.

“We are confident that adherence to these and other guidelines will mitigate exposure and provide an environment for our student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans that is as safe and supportive as possible,” AISA wrote within the guidelines.

On game days, schools are responsible for communicating any needs, restrictions or requirements to the opposing team. This can include a mask policy, stadium seating rules, student section protocol, social distancing guidelines and more.

The AISA said schools can consider family transportation to limit COVID spread on buses. The organization encouraged face coverings and assigned seating when this is not possible.

Only cheerleaders are allowed on the field to participate in “spirit lines.”

“No students, parents, band members or other non-essential individuals are allowed on the field,” the guidelines stated.

Regular screenings are outlined, noting that coaches should monitor the health of student athletes.

“Any student exhibiting symptoms or presumed to be positive with COVID-19 should be immediately quarantined and should not participate in any contest until cleared by a medical professional,” AISA wrote.

AISA said schools are expected to follow local, state and federal protocol.

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