The COVID 19 pandemic has created challenges for all of us, with many restrictions and guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Fairfax County Health Department (FCDH). The significant restrictions have been eased in the last several months, along with additional changes in restrictions that are expected to occur as more people are vaccinated and daily cases of COVID 19 decrease. With that in mind, VDH developed phases for the return to various life activities, including sports play. Currently we are in Phase 3, which allows for practices to be continued and games/scrimmages to be played. Safety is the primary focus that should be followed by all as we begin return to play for the 2021 football season.
Youth athletics pose risk of COVID transmission (even with mitigation efforts). There is increased risk of spreading COVID-19 while playing close-contact sports. There are a few factors that contribute to increased risk of transmission among athletes. First, the physical proximity in many competitive sports, and potential for shared game equipment, increases the risk of spreading respiratory droplets between players. As this is the primary way that COVID-19 is spread, it puts athletes at a higher risk of passing along the disease. Second, the cumulative length of time participants spend in proximity with each other increases the amount of time respiratory transmission can occur. Higher-intensity physical activity that can lead to heavier breathing may also increase the likelihood of transmission. Outdoor sports do allow for greater participation due to the more open space and air movement, if participants continue to use masks and are not in close contact except as needed for practices and games. At least 6 feet of space is recommended between individuals.
RETURN TO PLAY PROCEDURES
To reduce the risk of COVID transmissions, the following procedures and protocols are to be followed by all clubs. For educational and informational purposes, various links and documents are included for FCYFL COVID Policies and Procedures to keep coaches, parents, and players aware of important items from the CDC, VDH and the FCHD. FCYFL will continue to update the information as changes are provided by the respective agencies. FCYFL will work to ensure that all clubs follow these policies and procedures to help with the safety of all participants during the football season. Also, FCYFL will help to ensure that required reporting is made to the FCHD when necessary, as explained below.
Commissioners will ensure that all coaches, parents, and players are made aware of the FCYFL policies and procedures, along with available information from the CDC, VDH and FCHD as posted or distributed through FCYFL and other sources. Information and education transfer are important to increasing the safety of all and keep up with changes that occur in the policies regarding the pandemic. Commissioners will also ensure that coaches make required reports to the FCHD as necessary when situations dictate to do so. Commissioners will also keep the FCYFL Executive Committee aware of reports of COVID cases made to the FCHD as required by law. Names of those affected are not to be included in the information, just the number of cases, team involved and coach making the report to the FCHD.
COVID health checks will be required by every coach and player prior to each practice and/or game. Each coach will need to sign a team attestation that the check was performed when the rosters are exchanged prior to each game. An example of the player attestation can be found in COVID Policies and Procedures. It is recommended that clubs make this an online form that can be completed by parents of the player prior to coming to practice.
All players should be able to answer these questions with a NO response prior to playing:
Has NOT had or currently has a fever above 100.4 degrees in the last 14 days?
Has NOT felt hot or feverish in the last 14 days?
Has NOT had a new cough that cannot be attributed to another condition?
Has NOT had flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue that cannot be attributed to another condition?
Has NOT experienced loss of taste or smell within the last 14 days?
Has NOT had anyone in the family with known exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 positive case in the last 14 days?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “YES,” then the player should be held out of practice/game until a test can confirm whether the player had COVID-19 or not. Any team that has a player or spectator that comes down with COVID symptoms needs to report the occurrence to their respective coach. The team coach will advise the club commissioner.
- Follow COVID-19 policies and procedures. Be aware of your own health and track this daily. If not feeling well or meeting the following symptoms, refrain from attending practice/game and advise club commissioner or designee:
- You are not feeling well or showing signs/symptoms of COVID-19, such as temperature of 100.4 or higher.
- You have had close contact with a sick individual or someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
- You have had a documented case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
- Coaches should wear masks to and from the practice/game facility and when addressing players in time outs and team talks in addition to addressing the Referees and opposing teams’ coaches if good social distancing cannot be achieved.
- Coaches and their teams should practice in a designated area, at least 10 feet from other groups, and even further if possible. Players should remain within the same group throughout Phase 3. Intra-club scrimmaging between teams should be limited.
- Individuals should maintain social distancing guidelines during arrival and departure from training.
- Coaches are the only ones to touch move cones or other specified items of training equipment. Players will only come into contact with designated items of equipment.
- Clean/disinfect all equipment used during practice. Disinfectant should be allowed to dry on the equipment at least 10 minutes before next use.
- Coaches will ensure that their teams not enter the playing field until the previous teams have left the area.
If you are not comfortable with returning to play, please hold your child out. You are the only one who will make the decision when your child returns to play.
- Ensure your child is healthy and check your child’s temperature before activities with others.
- Consider not carpooling or extremely limited carpooling.
- Consider remaining in car or adhere to social distance requirements, based on state and local health requirements.
- When at practices or games, wear a mask when entering or leaving the facility and make every attempt to follow the 6 feet of social distance, except within groups from the same family.
- Any seating must be provided by the spectator and it must be placed 20 ft from the sideline away from the teams.
- Ensure child’s clothing is washed after every training.
- Ensure all equipment (helmets, shoulder pads, pants pads, mouth guards) are sanitized before and after every practice or game.
- Be sure your child has necessary sanitizing products with them at every practice/game.
- If your child becomes ill for any reason, please do not send them to training.
- If anyone in your household has tested positive to COVID-19, please notify your coach immediately.
- Consistent with CDC guidance, Virginia does NOT currently have any quarantine requirements for people arriving in the Commonwealth from other U.S. locations. If you are returning from a state that requires self-quarantine (upon return) then that guidance MUST be followed. If you are returning from international travel, VDH guidance is that you MUST stay home for 10 days - OR - 7 days if you test negative (e.g., PCR or antigen test 5 days after returning from travel.)
- Take your temperature daily and especially before activities with others.
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after practice/game.
- Bring, and use, hand sanitizer with you at every practice/game.
- Wear a mask before and immediately after all practice/game. During the game players do not need to wear a mask BUT while standing on the sidelines, masks are encouraged. Social distancing should be enforced by the coaches during the game.
- Do not touch or share anyone else’s equipment, water, food, or bags.
- Practice social or physical distancing, place bags and equipment at least 10 feet apart.
- Wash and sanitize all equipment before and after every practice/game.
- No group celebrations, high-5s, hugs, handshakes, fist-bumps, etc.
- Follow all CDC guidelines as well those of your local health authorities.
- Spitting or coughing in the direction of another player, or intentionally entering someone’s social distanced space (outside of practice/game play) could be grounds for expulsion from the game and field.
COVID-19 CASE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) is committed to enforcing the following stipulations and conditions that have been put in place to allow community use of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) facilities and fields. The Virginia Regulations for Disease Reporting and Control requires outbreaks (two or more linked cases) to be reported directly and immediately to the local health department. In the regulations, recreational athletic programs fall under the category of day program. Additionally, the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) has requested that individual cases of reportable diseases, like COVID-19, are also reported immediately.
Where to Report Cases and What Information Must Be Included
Fairfax County has an online survey for recreational athletics programs to report COVID cases to FCHD: Fairfax County Community Sports Organization COVID-19 Case Reporting. It includes sections to report information on the sports program, information on the case, rosters for players and coaches, and contact information for the submitter.
This affected team coach will make the report, since this person will have best access to the required information. Entities (sports clubs/teams) may voluntarily comply with the contact tracing investigation, or the Fairfax County Health Director can ask the State Health Commissioner to issue an order for compliance (Va. Code § 32.1-39). Violation of the Health Commissioner’s order is a Class 1 misdemeanor; the remedies include injunctive relief and a civil penalty (Va. Code § 32.1-27). Club commissioners and team coaches are expected to comply with providing this information.
Case Review of Surveys
FCHD’s Containment Branch, which investigates COVID-19 cases and contacts, receives, and reviews all submissions to the survey. A case interviewer will reach out to the parent/guardian of the infected person to complete a case investigation, identify close contacts, and provide public health guidance for isolation. The Containment Branch will follow-up with the submitter to notify them when the investigation is completed and provide any next steps for the program (e.g., pausing activities for 14 days). After the coach learns of the case(s), all activities must be paused, including practices and internal meetings, to allow FCHD time to complete the case investigation.
How the Information Reported into the Survey Is Kept Confidential
All FCHD operations must meet the privacy standards in HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law requiring the protection of personal health information. The Community Sports Organization COVID-19 Case Reporting survey is HIPAA-compliant, and FCHD will follow procedures during the case and outbreak investigation to maintain privacy of the personal health information. Virginia Code § 32.1-39 and 12 Virginia Administrative Code § 5-90-100 give the Health Department the legal authority and responsibility to investigate positive COVID cases and to perform contact tracing. Reports and disclosures to the Health Department are immune from civil liability or criminal penalty. Va. Code § 32.1-38.