First and foremost, we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We have received questions from our community about how COVID-19 will impact the 2020-21 SOAZ competition & events season. We know this outbreak has been stressful to many, and we recognize that exercising and participating in activities like sports can be a healthy way to cope with stress and connect with our community.
After conducting extensive research and consulting with public health officials and other experts in varying fields, we are excited to share that we plan to resume in-person activities with limitations and proper mitigation measures. These guidelines, which are outlined in SOAZ’s Return to Activities Action Plan, follow the CDC’s considerations for recreational sports programming and the recommendations we have gathered from state & county public health agencies throughout the research & development process.
The health and safety of our athletes, Unified partners, staff, and volunteers remain our highest priority. To protect our community, SOAZ’s Return To Activities Action Plan is divided into three phases, which build upon each other and gradually ease restrictions throughout the different stages of progress required to achieve the ultimate goal of playing with no restrictions or recommendations related to COVID-19. In addition to following this phased approach, below is a summary of actions we are taking to help ensure we are lowering COVID-19 risk as much as possible while also allowing for a safe return to in-person activities:
- Return to Activities (RTA) Kits – Thanks to the generosity of our RTA presenting sponsor, Mercy Care, every delegation/school will receive a free Return To Activities kit, which includes educational resources for coaches on detailed mitigation protocols (e.g. temperature screenings, social distancing practices, facility/equipment sanitization procedures, etc.), screening equipment (e.g. no-touch thermometers, PPE, etc.), and supplies for proper cleaning/disinfection (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc.).
- Education/Training – all Class A Volunteers (HODs, coaches, team chaperones & volunteers, etc.) are required to complete SOAZ’s COVID19 Safety & Prevention Measures certification course prior to returning to sports practice or attending any other in-person SOAZ activity. The certification course includes training on:
- Intensifying cleaning and disinfection within facilities and premises by cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces on the field or play surface before and after each practice; cleaning and disinfecting shared objects and equipment between each use; and ensuring that a disinfectant with a minimum of at least 70% alcohol content is used.
- Reducing physical closeness or contact between players when possible by discouraging unnecessary physical contact such as high-fives, fist bumps, and hugs; displaying laminated signs and using visual cues to remind participants to keep a distance of at least 6 feet between themselves and others; and ensuring parents/guardians/transportation are aware of what time to pick up their athlete in order to avoid congregating after practice has ended.
- Promoting healthy hygiene practices, such as requiring all participants to use hand sanitizer/wash their hands before and after practices and games; encouraging participants to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or to use the inside of their elbow; and reminding them to stay home if they feel sick.
- Limiting the sharing of equipment by providing extra equipment to minimize the need to share or encouraging players to bring their own equipment.
- Requiring coaches, volunteers, staff, officials, parents, and spectators wear a cloth face covering during practices and competitions. Athletes and Unified partners may opt to wear a cloth face covering on the sidelines and during play if feasible. As a reminder, cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.
Anyone who is sick or has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19— including players, family members, coaches, staff and spectators — should not attend any in-person activities (practices or events). Be on the lookout for symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Call your doctor if you think you or a family member is sick. If someone does get sick during practice or at an event, SOAZ has a protocol in place to isolate and transport that person to their home or healthcare facility safely.
If you have a specific question about this plan or COVID-19, please contact your Area Director for more information. You can also find more information about COVID-19 at www.cdc.gov.
Thank you and stay healthy,
President & CEO
Special Olympics Arizona