The medical advisory committee of the University Interscholastic League passed a measure Friday that requires students who test positive for COVID-19 to be cleared by a physician before returning to extracurricular activities.
That applies to all UIL-sanctioned activities, including band and cheer, the committee announced during a 20-minute meeting. Committee members repeatedly described the pandemic as a "moving target" and urged school districts to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The committee used one CDC guideline as an example for schools to follow: If a student-athlete lives in the same home as someone who tests positive, that student-athlete should quarantine for 10 days before returning to play.
The subject led to some lively discussion on the severity of the matter. Before the motion was passed, a few committee members voiced their concerns about student safety.
"It’s going to be difficult to have high school sports if the pro sports are having a tough time continuing to play because of positive tests," Dr. Arnold Fenrich said. "They have unlimited resources and medical personnel to evaluate their players on a daily basis. I can’t imagine how that’s going to work in schools where kids might go for days without realizing they have COVID. In the meantime they’ve spread it to multiple other teammates and classmates."
Dr. Jesse DeLee, the committee chairman, said the UIL has a great challenge to keep students safe while allowing them to participate in extracurricular activities.
"We walk a fine line between the practice of medicine, the providing of health care and what our real charge is, and that is to give guidelines to local school districts," he said. "We can’t control whether kids go off during lunch to a hamburger joint and don’t have a mask on. That’s not our charge."
UIL Deputy Executive Director Jamey Harrison had a positive outlook regarding students’ returning to school activities.
"When you get into deep discussions with educators and with state leaders, you find out there’s a real need for this and a way to do it that will have a positive impact on mitigating the spread instead of what people assume is going to happen, and that’s a negative impact on the spread," Harrison said.
Austin High coach Michael Rosenthal said the proposal is a "good idea."
Hutto coach Brad LaPlante said it will benefit the players in the long run.
"I think the UIL is trying to keep teams from missing games," LaPlante said. "By taking a positive test and having a protocol for reentry back into athletics, it protects the rest of the team. Should a team get multiple positive tests, a team may get shut down. Everyone wants to have a season, not just a few games. This is a way to protect a season."
The UIL recently announced that football in Class 4A through 1A will begin Aug. 27. For 6A and 5A, games will begin Sept. 24.