SEC football protocols include mask requirement, two tests per week

The SEC will require two coronavirus tests per week, and coaches will be required to wear a face mask or neck gaiter on the sideline at all times during football games, the conference announced Friday as part of its initial medical protocols.

Coaches and players who are not competing will be required to wear a face mask or neck gaiter that must "cover both the nose and mouth such that neither nostrils nor the tip of the nose is visible." Competing players must wear a neck gaiter during timeouts or when conferring with coaches on the sideline.

Players will be tested six days and three days before a game, meaning tests typically will take place Sunday and Wednesday. A twice-weekly testing requirement also exists for other sports considered "high risk," such as soccer and volleyball.

A positive test will require a player to isolate for at least 10 days and be asymptomatic, while prolonged exposure will lead to a 14-day quarantine, according to the league protocols.

The conference will coordinate testing through a third party, and each school will designate a COVID-19 protocol oversight officer to ensure compliance.

"Our Medical Task Force is producing an effective strategy for testing and monitoring, which complements the vigilant day-to-day efforts of our campuses to establish and maintain healthy environments in which our student-athletes can train and compete," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "Our health experts have guided us [through] each stage of preparation for the safe return of activity and, together with the medical staffs embedded within our athletics programs, we will continue to monitor developments around the virus and evolve our plan to meet the health needs of our student-athletes."

The task force recommended exploring alternative testing methods to accommodate for a third weekly test that could provide results closer to the start of a game.

According to the release, the SEC's medical requirements are based on "currently available information" and that "each institution is responsible for the management of its student-athletes and is subject to the requirements imposed by its state and local health departments, as well as state law."

The SEC also outlined its considerations for the discontinuation of games:
• Inability to isolate new positive cases or quarantine high-risk contacts of cases of university students.
• Unavailability or inability to perform symptomatic, surveillance or pre-competition testing when warranted.
• Campuswide or local community positivity test rates that are considered unsafe by local public health officials.
• Inability to perform adequate contact tracing consistent with local, state or federal requirements or recommendations.
• Local public health officials indicate an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

Acknowledging the potential impact of the virus on players' mental well-being, the SEC recommended that all universities "be aware of and attend to the mental health needs of its student-athletes."

In football, the SEC plans to play a 10-game, conference-only schedule that will kick off Sept. 26.

Preseason practice can begin Aug. 17, and each school will be allowed a total of 25 practices with a limit of 20 hours per week.