UIL alters COVID-19 guidelines again, plans for normal start

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
The University Interscholastic League announced several COVID-19 guidelines have been changed for the final three weeks of summer workouts and conditioning programs.

With just weeks until the scheduled start of the fall athletic season, the University Interscholastic League made some revisions to its summer workout and conditioning program COVID-19 guidelines.

The biggest changes involve face coverings, locker room access, expanded drills and updated required protocols for individuals confirmed, suspected or exposed to COVID-19.

Workouts are to resume as scheduled on July 13 for the next three weeks. Football, volleyball and cross-country are to hold their first official practices on August 3.

“At this time, the UIL plans to begin fall competition seasons as scheduled on the UIL calendar,” UIL Director of Athletics Susan Elza said in an email to schools. “UIL will continue to work with state officials and monitor CDC and other federal guidance to determine any potential modifications to this guidance.”

In accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, all employees, parents, visitors and students 10 years of age or older must wear face coverings or face shields upon entry to an area where UIL activities are being conducted and when not actively practicing or exercising, unless an exception applies, as outlined in the full document.

Exceptions include those with a medical condition or disability to prevent them from wearing a covering, consuming food or drink or a person in a pool or lake or similar body of water, among others.

“This includes all 2020 summer activities and in-season activities for the 2020-2021 school year,” the UIL said on its website. “As the public health situation changes, and/or if subsequent Executive Orders are issued by Governor Greg Abbott, these guidelines may be further modified.”

Athletes may now have access to locker rooms, something which was forbidden in the initial guidelines released back on May 22. Denison, among other schools, immediately said that it would keep its locker rooms closed for now.

Athletes also can now engage in drills involving one or more students on offense against one or more students on defense. That was another part of the workouts initially not allowed.

Last Thursday, the UIL recommended schools shut down workouts from July 3 until July 13 due to the rising number of coronavirus cases across the state. The days of July 3rd, 7th and 8th had already been designated as times where facilities would be unavailable to athletes and most schools had already taken off the week following the Fourth of July to coincide with that schedule.

Two Grayson County schools, Sherman and Tioga, had previously altered their summer schedule after positive coronavirus tests affected their respective athletic programs, which involved not holding in-person workouts until July 13.

To make up for the lack of action during that 10-day span, the UIL changed the other two days in July which had been blacked out — the 20th and 21st — into days schools can now practice.

This is the third time the UIL has altered its summer workout guidelines. On June 9, changes which went into effect on June 22 were teams could have 50 percent of their indoor capacity, up from the original 25 percent allowed, and the number of students working in outdoor groups went from a maximum of 15 to a a maximum of 25 and those in indoor groups increased from a max of 10 students to a max of 15 students.

The UIL also altered its wording in regards to cleaning equipment, saying those surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected before and after use. The initial guideline said that equipment must be thoroughly disinfected.

The ratio of needing one coach per 20 students in attendance was removed immediately on July 9 as a result of that first update.