SEC announces medical protocols ahead of 2020 season

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    (Photo via RD Moore/SECSports.com)

    Hours before the SEC was expected to release the additional opponents for their adjusted 2020 conference only schedule, the league announced its official COVID-19 protocols on Friday.

    In a press release, the SEC stated that their Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force has been meeting since April to “review and discuss” the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. According to the conference, the Task Force is dedicated to developing and enacting policies and protocols to help guide SEC member schools and athletic programs in their return to sports.

    “Our Medical Task Force is producing an effective strategy for testing and monitoring, which complements the vigilant day-to-day efforts of our campuses to establish and maintain healthy environments in which our student-athletes can train and compete,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “Our health experts have guided us through each stage of preparation for the safe return of activity and, together with the medical staffs embedded within our athletics programs. We will continue to monitor developments around the virus and evolve our plan to meet the health and needs of our student-athletes.”

    In the press release, the league stated that the Task Force’s requirements are to test players and staff at each program as well as lay out procedures for infections and contact tracings and protocols for quarantine and isolation.

    The SEC says that it will develop similar requirements for its other sports before their seasons begin.

    Requirements and protocols laid out by the conference will continue to be reviewed and updated on an as-needed basis. The conference is expecting a pre-season from the Task Force on Aug. 31.

    Below are the procedures:

    TESTING

    • The SEC will coordinate centralized testing through a third-party provider to ensure consistency in surveillance and pre-competition testing. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the current standard testing method for the COVID-19 virus. Alternative testing methods may be considered if sufficient data develops to support those methods.
    • In the sport of football, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, typically six days and three days prior to competition. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, in addition to the two required PCR tests, that will provide for the reliability and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing in a timeframe closer to competition.
    • In the sports of volleyball and soccer, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, with one to occur three days prior to the first competition of the week. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, in addition to the two required PCR tests, that will provide for the reliability and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing in a timeframe closer to the first competition of the week.
    • In the sport of cross country, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least once per week during competition, with that test to occur three days prior to each competition.

    MASKING

    • In football, volleyball and soccer, all coaches, staff and non-competing personnel will be required to wear face coverings on the sideline and physical distancing will be employed to the extent possible.
    • In cross country, competing student-athletes are required to wear a face covering at the starting line, which may be removed when proper distancing has been achieved. Coaches and staff associated with cross country competition are expected to utilize social distancing to the extent possible and will be required to wear a face covering during pre- and post-competition.

    OTHER NOTES

    • Each institution is required to designate a COVID-19 Protocol Oversight Officer who will be responsible for education and ensuring compliance with the SEC’s COVID-19 management requirements.
    • The SEC announced in July that student-athletes in all sports who elect to not participate in intercollegiate athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team.