By Theo Lawson | McClatchy News Service
PULLMAN — Pac-12 Conference student-athletes will be allowed to return to their respective campuses as early as June 15 for voluntary in-person workouts, the conference announced Tuesday.
It will be up to the discretion of each member institution — and local government entities — to determine when workouts should commence.
Still, the Pac-12’s decision marks the next step toward resuming college sports in the conference since the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament was shuttered in early March, with all other sports following, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Washington State University athletes have not been given a specific date as to when they can return to campus for workouts. The school continues to work through the logistical hurdles of providing a safe environment for each of its 17 sponsored sports, planning for a “phased-in return,” according to WSU Director of Athletics Pat Chun.
Under the guidelines laid out by Gov. Jay Inslee in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, gyms are allowed to open their doors again, but gatherings must be limited to five people or fewer.
Whitman County, home of WSU, was approved to move to Phase 2 status May 15.
King County — home to the University of Washington — currently remains in Phase 1. Unless a county is approved to move to the next phase early, phases are supposed to last at least three weeks.
“We appreciate today’s decision by the Pac-12 Conference CEO group,” Chun said in a school statement. “The health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is our absolute highest priority. Washington State Athletics is preparing for a phased-in return to campus for our student-athletes in the upcoming weeks, and the resumption of voluntary, in-person activity will be an important step as we begin preparations for the fall sports season.”
Some schools have announced procedures that allow students who’ve stayed on campus through the coronavirus outbreak to return to workout facilities first, followed by those from out of state.
In the statement, Chun indicated WSU will develop policies and procedures based on practices outlined by a number of organizations, including the American College Health Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington State Department of Health.
On Tuesday, the Pac-12’s Medical Advisory Committee also released a list of protocols and procedures that member schools are encouraged to follow, including recommendations for testing, contact tracing, monitoring, social distancing, hygiene measures, food services and quarantine.
Those guidelines suggest athletes should be symptom-free, with no known COVID-19 contact for 14 days prior to a return to campus. Athletes who drive to campus or those already living in the area don’t require isolation, but those flying are urged to self-isolate for seven days before returning to facilities. Student-athletes will require preparticipation evaluation and lab testing, health education and will be required to wear face masks at all times.
Under its “facility specific considerations” section, the protocols recommend equipment cleaning after each use, that workouts are confined to small groups and student-athletes “come prepared to work out and shower at home during early stages” in order to mitigate the use of locker rooms.
Guidelines also suggest appointments be made for athletic training room sessions and the number of students in training rooms should be limited. Only foods that are prepackaged should be available in dining rooms, and meals should be provided “to-go” in order to restrict eating in the facility.