University of Utah outlines plans for ‘phased-in approach’ to reopen facilities for voluntary workouts starting next month
Student-athletes can begin going back on June 15
SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah athletics department officials unveiled plans for a “phased-in approach” to reopening the school’s training facilities for voluntary workouts by student-athletes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This whole process has been incredibly collaborative,” said athletics director Mark Harlan. “We’ve had an unbelievable reopening team.”
Harlan was joined on a Zoom call with the media Thursday afternoon by deputy athletics director Kyle Brennan, team physician Dr. David Petron and director of athletic training Trevor Jameson.
In accordance with the Pac-12, voluntary in-person workouts on campus may resume on June 15. That’s the day in-state student-athletes participating in football, basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball will be allowed to use department facilities once again. On June 22, out-of-state student-athletes in those sports will be accommodated. All newcomers can report on June 28.
The first three phases will be reevaluated the next day. Student-athletes from all other sports will be phased in on July 13, 20 and 27 with plans to have everyone on board by Aug. 25.
Petron noted that a lot of input was sought from experts in getting to this point. The guiding principle, as included in the presentation, is “the health and safety of student-athletes and staff.” Protocols were created in accordance with state, federal, NCAA and Pac-12 guidelines.
The goals include:
— Create safe and manageable return of groups of student-athletes, staff.
— Decentralize potential areas of congestion and cross-contamination among teams/student-athletes.
— Create a contact tracing system within the department.
Enacted policies and procedures, Petron said, are fluid and could change at any point as new information and emerging evidence is gathered. Plans are established in close cooperation with local health departments.
“This is a living, breathing document and as data comes to us it will be adjusted accordingly. And it’s very important that we continue to listen to our medical professionals.” — Utah athletics director Mark Harlan
Prior to the voluntary workouts, all student-athletes and staff must complete a COVID-19 screening form. Antibody and PCR tests will be conducted. Wristbands will be issued to monitor compliance and face coverings must be worn. Workouts will be rigidly scheduled with daily assessment and temperature checks. Numerous hand sanitizer stations are being set up.
Jameson said the planned monitoring is designed to separate low-risk and high-risk people.
“As we define those two things we are trying to create a safe environment,” he explained.
And that, Jameson continued, will lead to a culture of compliance and social awareness. That’s the long-term solution.
After approximately 14 days of good outcomes, Jameson acknowledged that more traditional practice activities could take place.
Brennan then discussed, in greater detail, the phased-in approach that would bring student-athletes back to campus over a three-week stretch.
“This is all housing dependent so we’re tracking where our student-athletes live and who they’re living with and making sure they’re in a safe place and not crashing on a friend’s couch,” Brennan said. “We’ve got to make sure our student-athletes are in a safe place to live for this to work.”
Once cleared medically, student-athletes will be escorted in groups to their workout facilities in an effort to limit crossover. Everything will be done by appointment to keep groups separated. If a student-athlete falls ill, protocols are in place that could lead to testing and isolation.
“We all very much miss our student-athletes,” Harlan said in expressing excitement to get them back on campus. “You could imagine that our No. 1 priority will be their safety.”
Utah’s plan isn’t completely set in stone, however, even if Harlan emphasized having a lot of confidence in it.
“This is a living, breathing document and as data comes to us it will be adjusted accordingly,” he said. “And it’s very important that we continue to listen to our medical professionals.”
Thursday’s announcement, Harlan acknowledged, was an important first step un the process.