The Fall Sports season is drawing to a close and we wanted to make the HSD community aware of the safety protocols for the upcoming Winter Sports season.
The biggest change from outdoor and low-risk sports to high-contact, high-risk winter sports is that winter athletes will be required to participate in twice-a-week COVID health screenings. These screenings will enable us to:
Comply with Washington DOH K-12 School Requirements (and WIAA Activity Guidance FAQ here and below);
Minimize COVID transmission;
Continue to offer extracurricular activities and in-person learning.
Concerns have been raised about the fairness of these screenings because they involve the rapid COVID testing of unvaccinated athletes. Our district is still finalizing our screening protocols, but currently, the HSD is planning to screen all athletes on an individual basis twice a week. Specifically:
Vaccinated athletes would complete a temperature check and health attestation. If either of these measures indicate a possible exposure or infection, the student would be quarantined at school before being sent home to complete a quarantine or provide a negative COVID test before returning to school.
Unvaccinated athletes would be given a rapid test. A positive test would result in a school and home quarantine.
Both of these screenings would be done privately. Student-athletes will not be publicly segregated, nor will any athlete know any other athlete's status unless they reveal it.
Both unvaccinated and vaccinated students will be tested before any overnight out-of-town event.
We are sensitive to the concerns regarding student discrimination. The HSD has designed these protocols considering a number of different factors including student equity as well as DOH compliance, school and community health, and the availability of testing supplies.
With the start of winter sports being two weeks away, the ever-changing nature of the COVID virus and health requirements, and our commitment to continuous improvement, we anticipate that our screening process will be updated and improved throughout the winter season. Any changes will be made with a full consideration of how they could impact student confidentiality and health, school safety, and the continuation of in-person learning.
WASHINGTON STATE DOH K-12 ACTIVITY GUIDANCE FAQ’S
Washington Interscholastic Activities Association
Updated: October 18, 2021
(August 24, 2021) - The following are answers to frequently asked questions submitted to WIAA staff about the latest K-12 guidance for schools. Please note that this document is intended to highlight key policies and add clarity to the DOH policies, it does not reflect WIAA policies. The full language issued by the DOH can be accessed here.
WIAA staff strongly encourages each school to work with their risk manager while planning for a return to participation.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Q: Are vaccination verifications required at school events?
A: Based on the Governor’s proclamation October 14, 2021, K-12 venues are exempt from the vaccination verification process. All masking requirements for indoor and outdoor are still applicable. WIAA state competitions held off of school grounds would be required to follow the updated verification process if attendance at any one time exceeded 1,000 spectators indoors or 10,000 spectators outdoors.
Q: If an athlete has tested positive in the last 90 days, do they have to participate in the testing program?
A: Athletes who have recovered from a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection within the past three months and remain without symptoms may participate in team sport activities without testing if they have a letter from their provider attesting they had a laboratory-confirmed viral test (molecular or antigen) within this time frame.
Any participant that displays COVID-19 symptoms at any time, regardless of prior COVID-19 diagnosis, must stay home and self-isolate in accordance with CDC guidance. The participant must resume testing after 90 days from the date of symptom onset from the laboratory- confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.
Q: If my student does not want to participate in screening, can they mask and still participate?
A: No, in order to compete or perform in high-contact indoor and high-aerosol indoor sports/activities, unvaccinated athletes will have to participate in screening or go through the vaccination process. Masking is only an option during the off-season practice time, such as open gyms.
Q: How often do students need to be tested?
A: Students should be tested at minimum twice weekly using a molecular or rapid antigen testing. A rapid antigen test should be performed on all unvaccinated athletes within 24 hours of the competition or performance. In a multi-day event, testing should occur before each competition. The second test during the week should be performed 3-4 days prior to or after the competition and may be a molecular or antigen test.
Q: We found a DOH document that states it is illegal and unethical to test students without parent consent, why are we testing and how does my district opt out of this?
A: We have contacted the DOH for guidance on this language. From the DOH: “As this relates to athletic activities that require testing (high risk/high contact), participating in the testing protocol is a requirement to participate in the athletic activity. A student, or parent/guardian of a student, may decide not to consent to testing, but then the student would not be allowed to participate in the activity.”
Q: Do cheer teams need to test if they are only practicing inside on poor weather days or related to air quality when preparing for outdoor performances?
A: Yes, as a high-aerosol generating activity, unvaccinated members would need to go through the testing protocols in order to practice, perform or compete.
Q: Do cheer teams have to test when they are performing outdoors?
A: No, outdoors, cheer teams do not have to test or mask for performances.
Q: Are middle school students required to test?
A: Yes, middle school students and schools should follow the same guidelines for testing as the high schools (all high-contact indoor and high-aerosol indoor activities).
Q: Do unvaccinated coaches, trainers, and other personnel who work with athletes in high contact, indoor sports also need to participate in screening?
A: Yes, all unvaccinated coaches, trainers, and other personnel who work with athletes in high contact indoor sports also need to participate in screening.
Q: How often, or when, are we supposed to supply testing information to the DOH?
A: Schools need to be reporting within 24 hours to DOH through SimpleReport with all positive tests. As of 9/9 negative results do not have to be reported. Schools need to report manually using the Excel method until they have registered for their SimpleReport information. DOH is working on a bulk electronic upload, when available, schools will upload all negative test results.
Q: If we have a positive test, who does the contact tracing?
A: Contact tracing needs to be coordinated with local DOH. Only students that have been vaccinated would be exempt from quarantine if not exhibiting symptoms. Schools should immediately work with their local DOH to work through the appropriate steps.
Q: If a student who tests positive believes there is a false positive, can a second test be given?
A: If someone thinks there is a false positive, a molecular test may be offered. If that result comes back negative, teams should work with local public health to determine if that person can return to practice and competition.
Q: Is there a pathway for athletes to get back to competition sooner than 14 days? Currently some schools use the CDC guidance for reduction of testing on day 5 of quarantine if symptom free and coming back on day 8 if the test is negative?
A: Yes, the CDC allows tests on day five (5) and out on day seven (7) of quarantine. It depends on the guidance of your local public health, as DOH will not prescribe which quarantine guidance to use. Refer to pages 11-12 for quarantine options less than 14 days.
Q: What are the guidelines for weight room activities?
A: Universal masking is required by all athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and support personnel when in weight rooms, regardless of vaccination status.
Q: If football, as a high-contact sport, were needed to be moved indoors due to smoke, do the players, coaches and other staff need to be tested and/or wear a mask?
A: If a football practice is needed to be moved inside due to air quality or other factors, they do not need to engage in the testing procedure, but must practice universal masking at all times despite vaccination status.
Q: Can you have student sections indoors?
A: Yes, but it is recommended in the guidelines that students be spaced 3 feet apart with masks on.
Q: Are concessions allowed this year?
A: Yes, concession stands are allowed indoors and outdoors. Masks are required for any indoor space however, so should be utilized in enclosed spaces at outdoor venues as well.
Q: Can schools cross state borders for competition?
A: Yes, the travel restrictions have been lifted at this time.