Sport are back…kind of. But don’t expect these events to look like they used to. The new normal will include abbreviated seasons, strict guidelines around social distancing, and comprehensive protocols on cleaning to protect athletes.
COVID-19 and Sports: Weighing the Risks
While we are always learning new things about the disease, the science is pretty clear on how COVID-19 spreads: droplets from an infected person are inhaled by or introduced into the mucus membranes of uninfected people. Certain situations, like crowding indoors with a lot of other people for an extended period of time is riskier than staying outdoors with at least six feet of space between people.
Or, as epidemiologists like to say ‘time, space, people, place’.
It’s about ‘knowing the risk and accountability of the people you choose to be around, the amount of space available, and how much time you plan to spend with them,’ according to Lori Grooms, OSF HealthCare Infection and Prevention Control Director.
Given these factors, some activities have higher risks than others. The National Federation of State High School Associations along with the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee breaks out the risk as follows:
- Higher Risk: Sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants. Examples include wresting, football and competitive cheer.
- Moderate Risk: Sports that involve close, sustained contact, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants OR intermittent close contact OR group sports OR sports that use equipment that can’t be cleaned between participants like basketball, baseball and gymnastics.
- Lower Risk: Sports that can be done with social distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean the equipment between use by competitors. Examples include cross country running, individual swimming and golf.
But no matter the sport, teambuilding activities like huddles, high fives and hugs are strongly discouraged. And spitting? Fuhgeddaboudit!
Cleaning to Protect Athletes
Enhanced cleaning regimes will be key to protecting athlete health. The practice is so important that one school, Ohio State, says that EVERYONE in the Department of Athletics will be diligent and accountable for the cleanliness of the facilities, led by each facility’s operations staff.
The school demands that only EPA-registered ‘cleaner/disinfectants’ will be used and staff will receive training on wearing, removing, handling and storing personal protective equipment (PPE), and additional training on cleaning and disinfection practices.
They also pledge to:
- Dedicated times and protocols will be established to sanitize and/or replace shared equipment;
- Surfaces, desks, floors, podiums, doorknobs and light switches will be cleaned and disinfected every 1-2 hours;
- White boards will be cleaned daily;
- Staff will use disinfectant wipes to clean their work areas, classrooms and computer stations before and after use;
- Carpeting will be vacuumed nightly and vacuums will have high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters; hard flooring will be wiped clean; and
- A thorough cleaning and sanitizing of the facility will take place every evening.
Faster, More Thorough Cleaning
Ramping up cleaning protocols is easier for organizations with big budgets to spend on extra personnel and equipment—think professional and collegiate sports. But smaller organizations need the same level of cleaning to protect athletes. And even deep-pocketed groups want to be prudent with their resources.
There are tools and technologies available to clean quickly and completely. Consider servicing weight rooms, locker rooms, rest rooms and shower rooms with a Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning System. Unlike mops and buckets, this spray-and-vac technology removes dirt, soils and bio pollutants. Pair it with an EPA-approved disinfectant like KaiBosh to clean and disinfect in one labor-saving step.
Shared equipment must also be cleaned and disinfected between each use. Don’t just wad up a microfiber or cotton cloth for this task as experts agree this could encourage cross contamination. Fold cloths into eighths and use one section at a time. Technology like a SmartTowel, with numbered panels makes this task easier.
SmartTowels are also a good choice for cleaning touch points like doorknobs, light switches and faucet taps.
Everyone is eager to restart sports, but no one wants to endanger health. Cleaning to protect athletes may let us get back to normal faster and that’s something to cheer about.