IHSA revises Phase 4 guidelines

According to IHSA, Illinois athletic programs see spike in COVID-19 cases

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By James Kay

Sports Editor

After getting approval from the Illinois Department of Health to move forward with its Phase 4 Return to Play guidelines, the IHSA sent an updated version of the guidelines to high schools after a statewide spike in COVID-19 cases in athletic programs.

Along with removing activities involving contact and limiting the number of spectators, the IHSA is requiring everyone participating in team-oriented activities to wear a mask. Michael O'Brien of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the IHSA is not applying this rule to athletes and coaches who are social distancing during outdoor practices.

The IHSA released this statement this afternoon:

"Due to an increase in positive cases of COVID-19 among high school teams around the state, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are jointly collaborating to modify the IHSA's Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines.

"The modifications place greater restrictions on coaches and student-athletes in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Important changes include limiting physical contact and an increased usage of masks. The former restricts schools from conducting contests against other schools in most sports, including football.

"The IHSA is working with the IDPH to update the guidelines, and will send to its membership, the media, and post on the web as soon as they are approved."

Before the guidelines' revisions were announced, Oak Park and River Forest High School had already implemented a more cautious variation of Phase 4 compared to the IHSA's initial plan. The school was allowed to do this because the initial guidelines for Phase 4 stated, "Local school administration determines the permitted activities at their school."

On July 6, the school sent an email to student-athletes and their families informing them that "skin-to-skin contact during activities" were not allowed. OPRF will also not allow spectators at events or practices. You can find the entire guidelines for OPRF athletics here.

The only change that OPRF will have to make is enforcing anyone participating in indoor activities must wear a mask. Karin Sullivan, the school's communications spokesperson, said the new guidelines have been communicated to all OPRF coaches. 

Fenwick High School, Trinity High School and the IHSA did not return Wednesday Journal's request for comment on this situation.

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