Tennessee Details Return-to-Campus Policy for Student-Athletes

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Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

Tennessee student-athletes have begun returning to campus in preparation of voluntary workouts beginning on June 8th.

Athletes are making their return to Rocky Top while the COVID-19 global pandemic is still ongoing. As it will be a tricky situation this coming Monday when athletes resume workouts, Tennessee’s athletic department released a detailed plan on Wednesday afternoon out-lining what will take place in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Here’s the full statement from Tennessee athletics:

UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE STUDENT-ATHLETE RETURN TO CAMPUS POLICY

The University of Tennessee Athletic Department continues to work closely with campus officials and local and state health departments while following federal guidance pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. This document is designed to answer frequently asked questions concerning the return of student-athletes back to campus and athletic activity. Adjustments to policies may be required periodically based on new data and/or recommendations from healthcare experts.

WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19), AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

COVID-19 is a respiratory viral illness caused by a new virus. It is most commonly transmitted through respiratory droplets from an infected person (i.e. coughs, sneezing, nasal discharge, saliva). It may also be contracted through contact with contaminated surfaces (i.e. door knobs, counter tops, desk tops, etc). The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include: Cough, Fever, Shortness of Breath/Difficult Breathing, Chills, Muscle Pain, Headaches, Sore Throat, Fatigue, New Loss of Taste or Smell and less commonly Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea.

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS EACH STUDENT-ATHLETE CAN REDUCE THE RISKS OF GETTING INFECTED?

Several personal hygiene strategies have been shown to be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. These include:

  • Social Distancing/Physical Separation (maintaining at least six feet of spacing from others): While social distancing is not always possible in sports, we have designed a plan within the athletic facilities to space out student-athletes as much as possible. For example, treatment tables and taping stations will be separated by six feet in the training rooms, and weightlifting stations will also be separated by at least six feet in the weight rooms.
  • Face Masks: The use of face masks has been shown to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from one person to another, especially in those individuals who may have an asymptomatic infection. Student-athletes will be required to wear masks in UT athletic facilities. Cloth face masks will be provided to each student-athlete and will be laundered for them by the equipment staff.
  •  Handwashing and Cough/Sneeze Etiquette: Student-athletes are encouraged to wash their hands frequently. Hand sanitizer is stationed throughout the facilities for easy access.
  • Coughing and sneezing into your arm or sleeve, particularly if not wearing a mask, will reduce the spread of respiratory droplets in the air.
  • Stay at Home if You’re Sick
  • We ask student-athletes not to present to the athletic facilities if they are sick. Instead, they will be instructed to call their athletic trainer and schedule a same-day appointment to be evaluated by the on-site Team Physician. This process helps reduce interaction of sick student athletes with those who are well.
  • Disinfection and Sanitation: All athletic facilities are cleaned daily with approved disinfectants. This includes all shared equipment before and after it is used by a student-athlete.

WILL STUDENT-ATHLETES BE TESTED FOR COVID-19 WHEN THEY ARRIVE ON CAMPUS?

Yes.

Just prior to the start of athletic activities, each student-athlete will undergo two tests:

  • Nasal Swab PCR Test — Used to diagnose anyone with an active COVID-19 infection
  • Antibody Blood Test — Used to diagnose anyone with a prior COVID-19 infection

Since some individuals—particularly young, healthy people—can have an asymptomatic COVID-19 infection, the purpose of the nasal swab PCR test is to identify anyone with an active infection and appropriately isolate and treat those individuals prior to starting sport training per Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. In addition, University Housing requires anyone living in on-campus housing (dorms) to have a negative test. This nasal swab PCR test will satisfy that requirement.

The purpose of the antibody test is to identify those individuals who may have had a prior infection and to closely evaluate him/her for any potential lung or heart injury that may have occurred from the infection. Unfortunately, there is insufficient data currently to know if a prior infection with the presence of antibodies provides any immunity or protection from a second infection. Therefore, student-athletes with positive antibodies will still be required to participate in all precautionary measures to reduce risk of infections.

Future COVID-19 testing will occur for anyone who presents with symptoms worrisome for an infection. Screening tests for teams throughout the season may occur and will be guided by campus, SEC and NCAA officials.

WILL THERE BE ANY DAILY HEALTH SCREENS FOR STUDENT-ATHLETES?

Yes. Each student-athlete will complete a questionnaire screening for any symptoms of COVID-19 or possible exposure.

In addition, one’s temperature will be checked by a sports medicine staff member. If a student-athlete were to have symptoms or an elevated temperature, he/she will return to the dorm or his/her vehicle (if lives off-campus) and wait for a phone call from the athletic trainer for a same-day appointment with the Team Physician to be evaluated. Staff members (i.e. coaches, support staff) will follow the university’s daily screening policy.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A STUDENT-ATHLETE IS ILL AND TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19?

Any student-athlete who presents with signs/symptoms of COVID-19 will be evaluated by the on-site Team Physician, and testing will be performed, if appropriate. If a test is positive, the student-athlete will be isolated and treated as outlined by CDC guidelines. Isolation will either occur in his/her dorm as directed by University Housing or in off-campus housing as directed by the athletic department. Frequent follow-up of the student-athlete will be done by the sports medicine staff. In addition, other individuals who are determined to be close contacts of the infected student-athlete will also be isolated and monitored for symptoms of COVID-19.

WILL ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES ARRIVE AT THE SAME TIME TO START SPORT TRAINING?

No.

Student-athletes will arrive on-campus in a phased approach throughout the summer. Student-athletes participating in football and basketball will arrive first. Your coaching staff will provide specific information on your team’s starting date(s). Please know that we plan to complete proactive testing on all staff members who may interact with student-athletes.

You may have many other questions concerning our plans for the return of student-athletes to campus that are not addressed in this document. We are available to answer those questions. If you have specific inquiries, please contact the athletic trainer for your sport.