University of Utah Athletics officials shared a comprehensive plan on May 28 for the phased return of student-athletes to athletics facilities for voluntary in-person individual workouts beginning June 15.
The phased approach will allow for the safest accommodation of small groups of student-athletes to have access to training facilities for in-person voluntary workouts, and follows last week’s decisions by the NCAA Division I Council and Tuesday’s decision by the Pac-12 to allow the resumption of in-person voluntary workouts at on-campus facilities.
Utah Athletics has been working closely with University leadership, campus health officials, state and local leadership and the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee to develop a comprehensive plan that is designed to provide the highest levels of care for the health and safety of student-athletes, staff and the campus community.
“We have been working collaboratively with the Pac-12 and their medical group, and also working with our students, to develop a plan that keeps their health, safety and well-being at the forefront,” said Mark Harlan, director of Athletics. “I’m very proud of the work that our team has done to provide our students the opportunity to return to our athletics facilities and it is our highest priority to do it in the safest possible manner.”
The work of the committee comprised every aspect related to student-athlete health and safety, from initial symptom screenings, to testing, facilities protocols, cleaning procedures and treatment. The goal is to provide the safest and healthiest environment to allow student-athletes the training and development opportunities they have been missing since the shutdown began in mid-March.
“It has been a collaborative effort not only at the University of Utah but within the Pac-12,” said Head Team Physician Dr. David Petron, who also serves on the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee. “We have representation from every team in the Pac-12 and this is going to the Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being board, as well as the COVID-19 task force. There’s been a lot of input from a number of experts, including infectious disease experts, to get to this point. The number one thing in our guiding principles is the health and safety of student-athletes and staff. The protocols that are created are in accordance with state, federal, NCAA and Pac-12 guidelines.”
As presented to the media on May 28, returning in-state student-athletes as well as those who have remained within a one-hour commute to Salt Lake City from football, men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and soccer will comprise the Phase I group.
Prior to the anticipated return dates for each phase, student-athletes and designated staff members will go through several tests that include both antibody testing and PCR COVID-19 testing. In addition, those gaining entry into athletic facilities also will be required to adhere to the following protocols:
- Daily temperature checks, wristbands and face coverings
- Student-athletes will be escorted to and from training facilities as well as within all facilities
- Student-athletes must be cleared to work out and listed on a roster at the check-in points with specified report times. Those who fail to report at the correct time or not cleared will NOT be granted access to facilities
“All the steps and procedures that we have in place right now are conforming with Phase Orange of the state (of Utah),” said Director of Athletic Training Trevor Jameson. “As we look at what the state allows for this level we’re meeting that and we plan on doing that for several weeks. Whatever color the state is in, we’re going to follow those guidelines.”
The plan also outlines protocols for handling positive tests of student-athletes and staff, and is centered on the goals of creating safe and manageable return groups of student-athletes and staff, decentralizing potential areas of congestion and cross-contamination amongst teams and student-athletes and creating a contact tracing system within the department.
These protocols are designed to maintain a low risk for exposure, manage contact tracing at a high level, develop departmental baselines and manageable workgroups for those directly working with the student-athletes, and establish a culture of compliance and social awareness to build long-term success.
The success within each phase will continue to guide the approach to subsequent phases, as greater numbers of student-athletes will be welcomed back to campus in the safest possible manner.