COVID-19: NJ announces updated COVID era Sports rules and regulations

As of last week, NJ organized sports activities can resume.

As of October 12, no-contact practices, contact practices, and competitions for sports defined as “Low Risk”, “Medium Risk”, and “High Risk” are permitted in both outdoor and indoor settingsLow-risk, non-contact sports include golf and tennis. Medium- and high-risk sports include baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, football hockey, judo, boxing, karate, wrestling, rugby, and group dance.

All indoor practices and competitions are limited to 25% of the room capacity or 25 people, whichever is fewer. However, if the number of individuals who are necessary for practice or competition, such as players, coaches, and referees, exceeds 25, the practice or competition may proceed if no unnecessary individuals such as spectators are present.

Even if this exception applies, the number of individuals at the practice or competition cannot exceed 25% of the capacity of the room, and such limit cannot exceed 150 persons.

Outdoor competitions or tournaments must abide by the limit on outdoor gatherings, which is currently limited to 500 people.

Facilities and participants must also abide by a number of health and safety protocols outlined in the Department of Health’s “Guidance for Sports Activities,” such as screenings for athletes, coaches, and staff; limitations on equipment sharing; and requirements for disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and equipment.

Staff, parents, guardians, and visitors are required to wear face coverings at practices and games. Athletes are encouraged to wear masks during downtime, but not during physical activity.

The Department of Health’s guidance also includes further details on which sports are defined in which category, how to create a sports program preparation plan, how to prepare a facility for sports practices, how to conduct sports practices, and how to prepare for games and tournaments.

Fall School Sports Season

Sports under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) must also abide by those associations’ rules.

The final determination on the fall high school sports seasons will be made by the NJSIAA, and school districts will make the ultimate decision on whether teams will resume competition.

Under the NJSIAA’s current plan, competition may start September 28 for girls tennis and on October 1 for all other sports except football, which will kick off its season on October 2.

Regular seasons will conclude on October 23 for girl’s tennis, November 7 for football, and November 12 for all other fall sports. Limited postseason play will run from October 24 through October 31 for girls tennis, and November 13 through November 22 for all other sports.

Schools that do not participate in the postseason may continue to play until November 22, with the exception being Thanksgiving football games. These are permissible after November 22, at each school’s discretion. No other fall sports competition will be allowed after November 22.

For additional information and updates, refer to theNJSIAA’s COVID-19 alert page.

NOTE: A student-athlete’s ability to participate with their team will not be altered in any way – regardless of whether they participate in remote-learning or in-person instruction.

A new law waives the requirement to complete an annual pre-participation physical examination for any student-athlete enrolled in grade six to 12 who either completed a physical examination during the 2019-2020 school year or completed a physical examination that allowed the student to participate on a school-sponsored interscholastic or intramural athletic team or squad during the 2019-2020 school year.

A student-athlete who has not completed a physical examination within 365 days prior to the first day of official practice in the athletic season is permitted to participate on a school-sponsored athletic team provided they complete the physical examination before the end of the athletic season.

Professional Sports

Professional sports teams which train or play in New Jersey can practice and engage in games or matches, if their leagues resume competition.

The State has been in constant discussions with these teams about the protocols they will have in place to protect the health and safety of the players, coaches, and team personnel – including facilities where proper sanitation and hygiene practices can be readily maintained.

Source: Executive Order No. 148Executive Order No. 149Guidance for Sports ActivitiesExecutive Order No. 161Executive Order No. 163 Order No. 187

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Elizabeth Mincer, Paul Josephson, Matthew LoBello or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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