FRYEBURG — The Maine Principals’ Association released its guidelines for high school sports this winter on Friday, and many look similar to those from the fall, but with more sports moving indoors, masks will be more prevalent.
“It is strongly recommended that school staff, and those students that are eligible, be vaccinated,” the MPA states in its four-page release. “Vaccination remains the most effective means to control the pandemic.”
The MPA outlines the pros of being vaccinated and the cons of not getting a vaccine.
“Fully vaccinated individuals can refrain from quarantine if they are symptom-free and do not become COVID-positive.
“Fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to a positive case should be tested 5-7 days after exposure, even if they are symptom-free, and should wear a mask until they receive a negative result.
“Fully vaccinated individuals are encouraged to participate in pooled testing where that option is available.
“Unvaccinated close contact(s) should be tested as soon as possible and again 5-7 days after exposure if the first test is negative.
“Unvaccinated individuals who are close contacts must quarantine for 10-days and may not return earlier even with a negative test.”
The guidelines include specific recommendations for what to do with positive COVID-19 cases among athletes, as well as quarantine procedures (see chart).
“The MPA, and the MPA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, make the following recommendations for winter indoor sports:
• Each district should have an Emergency Action Plan in place that includes COVID-19 prevention and management strategies that align with federal, state and local guidance. Districts may institute more restrictive measures.
• Athletes should continue to provide their own water jugs — limit hydration stations.
• Physical distance during pre-game conferences.
• Limit post-game handshake, high-fives, fist bumps before, during and after the game. Continue with a good sportsmanship wave.
• Any return to play plan, after a positive case, should include a gradual and progressive return to physical exertion developed by the student’s primary care physician.
• Support staff (officials, trainers, game workers) will be assessed by school health officials individually based on their exposure to a positive case.
• Schools utilizing venues outside of their school must follow the restrictions in place by the venue. Outside venues follow local school-based guidelines that are in place when hosting school events.
• The Maine Principals’ Association will follow Maine CDC recommendations for MPA-sponsored post-season play.
Local districts/leagues may consider developing guidelines to be followed in these areas: Spectators/capacity limits; concessions; cheerleaders during a contest; weight rooms; locker rooms; participation against schools with different policies; masking during competition; mandatory pooled testing; out-of-state competition; middle-level activities; and factors that would allow athletes and officials to remove masks while competing.
“The mission of the MPA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is to provide guidance to the MPA member schools concerning the health and safety of students participating in interscholastic sports and activities. Team sports and other group extracurricular activities can increase the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission for students, coaches, referees, and staff, especially during indoor and close contact team sports. We strongly recommend that all schools follow this unified guidance for extracurricular activities.”