PHOENIX — After holding a Zoom meeting of its executive board Thursday afternoon, the Arizona Interscholastic Association released guidelines for a return to high school sports.

The guidance is in accordance with the phased reopening of the state by Gov. Doug Ducey during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AIA executive board approved the recommended guidelines, which were created by the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

The AIA will treat the guidelines as a “living” document that can be modified by the SPAC or the executive board if necessary.

“Our priority through this is for the safety and well-being of all our state’s student-athletes and those that support them,” AIA executive director David Hines said in a statement.

“We are not guaranteed to have a fall season. We are preparing to be ready on time, but it will all depend on how this situation develops as the summer goes on. We just ask that schools, coaches, players and parents consider and utilize the guidelines until we get back to normal.”

The guidelines, the AIA noted, do not supersede the authority of local public health officials or local ordinances. Individual schools and districts are responsible for making their own decisions on how to proceed in a safe and responsible manner.

Steve Bebee, superintendent for the Casa Grande Union High School District, said the high schools in his district — Casa Grande Union and Vista Grande — are not ready to open campuses for summer workouts at this time.

“While I cannot speak for other school districts, we have not been given the OK to even begin thinking about team workouts for our athletic teams,” he said in an email to PinalCentral.

Bebee mentioned Phase I of Ducey’s reopening plan, which calls for a limit of 10 people to gather in one place. Specifically, the governor’s guidance on gatherings outlines the congregation of groups should be limited to 10 people “when feasible” and “in relation to the size of the location.”

“That would make it very hard for our teams to come together and work out,” Bebee said. “I don’t have a set date (for returning) at this time to share.”

The AIA’s recommended guidelines came in a 12-page document. Access to the full document can be found here: bit.ly/2X9Kvu4Some of the highlights are as follows:

General guidelines to reduce spread of illness

• Stay home when sick

• Wash hands, discourage spitting, cover mouth and face when coughing

• Shower immediately upon arriving home and wash hands after putting clothes in place to be washed separately

• Avoid touching face with hands

• Avoid physical contact; no high-fives, fist bumps or hugs

• Cloth face coverings strongly recommended

The guidelines call for a three-phase plan to return to sports activities.

Phase I

Guidelines include, but are not limited to, permitting small group activities for 10 people or less with a coach present. Public facilities, including gyms, will remain closed. Screening for COVID-19 symptoms will be conducted through a questionnaire of all coaches and staff, and a COVID-19 point of contact for each team shall maintain symptom logs.

Temperature checks are strongly encouraged, and each athlete shall log his or her self-reported temperature and questionnaire responses. Athletes should be kept in the same training group.

Phase II

Guidelines include, but are not limited to, permitting group activities for 50 people or less with a coach present. Public facilities are to remain closed unless there is appropriate distancing combined with strict sanitization procedures.

All other recommendations from Phase I still apply during Phase II.

Phase III

Guidelines include the opening of public training facilities with “regular” group sizes permitted. All sports, with and without contact, may resume normal activity.

Social distancing is recommended but not required. Training sessions can return to normal with usual number of athletes. Equipment and other shared material is allowed, but cleaning equipment before and after each group use shall continue.

Change regarding annual physical

To increase safety measures and avoid unnecessary doctor’s visits during the pandemic, the rules have been modified concerning the AIA’s requirement of an annual physical for each individual athlete. Physicals completed for the 2019-20 school year will be accepted for the 2020-21 year if the following criteria are met since the 2019-20 physical.

• Athlete has a 2019-2020 AIA sports physical on file with the school he/she is attending for 2020-2021.

• Athlete did not have any new injury or illness requiring outside medical evaluation or if injury did occur, was released for full athletic participation by a medical professional.

• Athlete did not have a concussion

• Athlete did not receive a new medical diagnosis

• Athlete has not had COVID-19

PinalCentral sports reporter Rodney Haas contributed to this article.

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Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at bwright@pinalcentral.com.

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