The Southeastern Conference announced its protocols for managing COVID-19 during the upcoming college football season in a statement on Friday.
"Our Medical Task Force is producing an effective strategy for testing and monitoring, which complements the vigilant day-to-day efforts of our campusesto establish and maintain healthy environments in which our student-athletes can train and compete," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in the statement.
"Our health experts have guided us though 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 SEC's Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force's requirements for other SEC sports are expected to be similar, but will be fully outlined before they begin play. The Task Force will also continue to review its protocols and potentially adapt them as new information becomes available.
In the testing protocol, players and those in close contact will receive tests through a third-party provider at least twice weekly -- six days and three days before games. Players will be isolated for at least 10 days after confirmed infections.
All sideline coaches and non-competing personnel will be required to wear face coverings and to maintain social distancing as much as possible. Players will be required to wear a neck gaiter for use during timeouts or when talking to coaches or sideline personnel.
The policy calls for masks or gaiters to completely cover the nose and mouth.
Each member school will also be required to designate a COVID-19 Protocol Oversight Officer to insure compliance.
The SEC also detailed what might lead to the conference discontinuing games.
Per the statement:
-- 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 indicating an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in COVID-19 related hospitalizations.
The SEC will play a 10-game, conference-only football schedule beginning Sept. 26.
The SEC's plan will be different from each of the other Power 5 conferences with its late start, which is three weeks after the originally scheduled start and two weeks later than any of the other conferences.
The SEC championship game is scheduled to be held in Atlanta on Dec. 19, two weeks later than initially planned and just 13 days before the College Football Playoff semifinals (Jan. 1).
The release of the protocols comes after at least two SEC players announced they are sitting out the season. On Thursday, Auburn senior linebacker Chandler Wooten said he will opt out and return in 2021.
"As a soon to be father, my number one priority is the safety and well-being of my family. Unfortunately, playing this season was ultimately not a risk that I was willing to take. I have ultimately decided to opt-out of this season Redshirt," he tweeted.
On Monday, Vanderbilt kicker Oren Milstein, a graduate transfer from Columbia, decided he wouldn't play.
"I thought it would be controlled by now," he told Saturday Down South. "I thought I'd feel a lot more comfortable playing a season by now. But that just has not been the case. We haven't really proven that we can control this virus, especially as Nashville has become a hotspot, as Florida has seemingly become the epicenter, all in SEC country."
--Field Level Media