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What's Next With the SWAC: The Return to Play

by Keisha J Kelley

As the cases of COVID19 continue to rise, normal activities that we look forward to have come to a slow crawl, many a full halt. Many schools are making plans to reopen, with social distancing being enforced. When it comes to football, fans are anxiously awaiting to see if their favorite teams will delay or cancel the 2020 football season altogether. The Southwestern Athletic Conference COVID19 Advisory Committee has identified baseline best practices to support a safe return to sporting activity. These practices were detailed and distributed among the league's institutional leadership. The SWAC COVID19 Advisory Committee has followed carefully and adopted principles that were recommended for local planning and return to sports activity.

*The Health and Safety of student-athletes, team staff, and coaches shall remain at the forefront of all institutional and conference COVID19 planning.

* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with Local and State Government Health Agencies will continue to guide institutional and conference decisions related to COVID19

*Management of external factors to decrease transmission (including the wearing of masks and rigorous cleaning and disinfection procedures).

*Minimize and eliminate exposure to all environments that cannot meet CDC recommended standards related to appropriate social distancing and sanitization (including strict physical and social distancing guidelines).

The only social distancing exceptions shall occur when student-athletes participate in a physical or team activity supervised or conducted by a coach and athletics trainer and in such cases, alternative and appropriate precautions should also be considered.

*Early detection (including screening, testing, and temperature checks).

*Containment strategies (including contact tracing, and isolation of those infected with COVID19 and those exposed to the virus.)

It is also stated that before the SWAC member institutions even begin the process of return of student-athletes to campus, all Federal, State, and Local criteria first should be met. The NCAA states that "In all instances, college athletics must operate with approval of the students' institutional leadership which means the institution must also be operating in accordance with local and state public officials with regard to return to campus, return to practice, and return to competition. As it will be, the institutional and governmental leadership will still have the final say in who can participate, assist with, and watch student-athlete practices and completion." As much as we want things to go back to "normal" this has become the new normal and slowly we will adjust.

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