PORTSMOUTH — As it stands now, a year after a statewide mask mandate and other Ohio Department of Health orders went into effect for Ohio’s schools and subsequently sports, it seems like — unfortunately — we’re venturing down that road again.
But, for now, despite a coronavirus cases comeback in Ohio fueled by the contagious and quite dangerous Delta variant, all the ODH did on Tuesday was release its anticipated yet REVISED official guidance for the state’s schools for the upcoming academic year — as some informational items pertain to interscholastic and extra-curricular activities.
And, that’s where the Ohio High School Athletic Association is involved and comes in — as another Administrator Update was issued on Tuesday following the ODH’s guidance and recommendations release, as once again it came directly from the office of OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute.
Although “Ohio lifted most statewide pandemic-related health orders on June 2, the risk is still there for illness from COVID-19. The OHSAA and ODH urge the membership to continue to follow safe protocols to protect everyone, especially those individuals who are not fully vaccinated. Here is a link to the ODH’s current K-12 guidance: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/schools/K-12-Schools-Guidance.pdf.”
Unlike last July and into August and even September when the OHSAA Executive Director’s Office offered almost daily updates on its ability to have fall sports seasons, Tuesday’s memo was the second in exactly four days —but only the fourth since Memorial Day.
On Monday, during a briefing led by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the ODH indeed offered guidance for Ohio’s schools for the upcoming academic year —and the OHSAA is usually one to follow along with and abide by that guidance and those recommendations.
There were NO mandates made regarding coronavirus vaccinations or public wearing of masks, but generally speaking, Vanderhoff emphasized for ALL eligible students AND staff to get vaccinated, and for any and all unvaccinated individuals to wear masks and continue practicing social distancing.
The OHSAA memo included key takeaways from this new guidance, as they relate to sports.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandate that masks shall be worn while using public transportation (e.g. school busses) remains in place.
• It is highly recommended that coaches and student-athletes which are eligible for vaccinations to be vaccinated.
• It is highly recommended that those who are unvaccinated wear masks in indoor facilities and in outdoor facilities where there are crowded situations.
• It is highly recommended that those who are unvaccinated maintain three-to-six feet of social distancing indoors and at outdoor facilities where there are crowded situations.
In addition to this guidance, other ODH specific guidance pieces and resources have been available as follows:
• Social Distancing, Masking and Congregating: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/main-guidance-21.pdf
• Youth, Collegiate, Amateur, Club and Professional Sports: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Youth-Collegiate-Amateur-Club-Pro-Sports.pdf
• Sports Venues: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Sports-Venues.pdf
• Posters and Signs: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/responsible-restart-ohio/Posters-and-Signs
The OHSAA is also asking its member schools to consider additional recommendations, including having school administrators and coaches read and familiarize themselves with the documents listed in those links.
Other recommendations which were listed included:
• Continue to work with your local health department when a positive test is confirmed to ensure the proper individuals are notified and to facilitate appropriate contact tracing.
• Continue to encourage student-athletes which test positive for COVID-19 to gain medical clearance before they are permitted to return to practices or contests, with an approval form to be kept on file at the school.
• Continue to practice proper sanitation of student-athlete equipment and personal belongings and of all facilities and venues.
• Continue to utilize signage and public address announcements at your facilities that encourage spectators to practice good hygiene and know the symptoms and that encourage spectators not fully vaccinated to wear masks and stay socially distanced.
All of those recommendations spanned through the entirety of the last academic year, as the greater focus was for fall and winter sports —prior to the regular rollout of vaccines during the winter weeks.
Of course, vaccinations now are a major point of emphasis — and even serious concern — for both the OHSAA and ODH.
“The OHSAA, in partnership with the Governor’s Office and the ODH, is encouraging its member schools to partner with COVID-19 vaccine providers in their communities to set up vaccination clinics for eligible students. School administrators can go to this link, which lists providers who are interested in creating partnerships for vaccination clinics in their communities: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/vaccine/business-provider-partners.pdf.”
With Aug. 1 representing the official starting date for fall sports coaching, “each school and/or school district shall determine if they choose to start on that date or later.”
At the Jan. 14 OHSAA Board of Directors meeting, a recommendation was approved that permits schools to complete the first two days of the football acclimatization period in July.
The 10-week regular season — for football — begins the week of Aug. 16, with the top 16 schools in each region qualifying for the playoffs that begin the final weekend in October.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved