Diagnosing COVID-19

What you need to know about testing for COIVD-19.

What is the difference between a PCR test and a Rapid Antigen test for COVID-19?

IHA currently offers two types of diagnostic tests for COVID-19:

  1. Antigen test (frequently referred to as a rapid test). This test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus. Turnaround time for results is usually very quick and, in some cases, results can be reported in 15 minutes.
  2. PCR test. PCR testing is considered the “gold standard” in COVID-19  (SARS-CoV-2) detection. This test actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even when the patient is asymptomatic. Turnaround time is longer than the antigen test, results take approximately 2-5 days to return. Some rapid testing could have a quicker turnaround time. Result turnaround times will fluctuate based on the community testing demand but can take up to 5 days and sometimes even longer.

How do I know which test I should get?

Discuss your personal situation with a healthcare provider to receive the best guidance on the most appropriate test. A rapid antigen test can be used when a patient is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.  Positive results from an antigen test are highly accurate, and while false positives can occur, they are rare. If your antigen test is negative, your healthcare provider may recommend that you have a confirmatory PCR test.

Should I wait until I have symptoms to get a COVID-19 test?

We recommend waiting 5-7 days post exposure to COVID-19 before getting tested unless you develop symptoms of COVID-19.  If a PCR test is negative and the patient remains asymptomatic, we recommend quarantining for 14 days from time of exposure.

What is a COVID-19 antibody test?

Antibody, or serology, tests look for antibodies in your blood to determine if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies can usually be detected in a person’s blood 2 – 3 weeks after symptoms begin. An Antibody test cannot be used to diagnose an active infection and is not recommended for patients currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

What tests are available for antibody tests?

COVID-19 antibody testing is done through a blood draw. A laboratory test order is required to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies and the test can be completed with other bloodwork if appropriate. Talk with your provider if you think a COVID-19 antibody test is appropriate for you.

If I got the COVID-19 vaccine, will my antibody test come back positive?

Maybe. The vaccine is intended to induce an immune response, so the antibody test (serology test) may be positive in someone who has been vaccinated.


Learn more about the COVID-19 testing and how you can get tested if you need to.

The COVID-19 vaccines are our best shot for ending the pandemic. Schedule your vaccine at an IHA Vaccine Clinic near you.

Returning to Normal*

*For kids it’s anything but normal.

By Patrick Gaulier, LMSW & Leah Diebel, LLMSW

Last year, Michigan parents and students were faced with a very difficult adjustment from in-person education to attending school virtually. As many schools push for more time in the classroom, parents and students are again making an adjustment, this time back to in-person learning. After a year of virtual classes where students didn’t have to leave their bedroom or home, walking into a school with hundreds of other children or teens can feel like a daunting task. As a parent, dropping your (nervous) child off after months of having them home is equally daunting. Even kids and parents that normally don’t experience social anxiety (or anxiety period) may feel nervous because they are out of practice. It’s normal to feel that way and there are ways to help the return to school go more smoothly for parents and children.

Prepare for school to be different from what they remember.

The school children left last spring is not the same place they will be returning to. Everyone will be wearing masks, friends will have distance between them, there may even be plexiglass shields, and lunchtime and recess will be a very different experience. Uncertainty around what school will look like upon their return will be a source of anxiety for children and teens, so the more information they have (at their level) the better. Talk to your kids about the new rules in place and how they feel about them. Try to get answers to their questions prior to their first day back in the classroom.

Let them worry.

Collectively, we say we are returning to “normal”, but really, we’re not. Kids are returning to school, but it won’t be what they remember as normal. The most normal thing about this whole process is worrying. Everyone has worries and parents can help children to see worrying is a normal part of life. Parents can help children manage worry and anxiety by asking open-ended questions like “what happened at school today?” or “what did you do at recess today?” or “did you see anything interesting on social media today?” Children may not be ready to share their feelings or answers to their questions, but they know you are ready to listen when they are. The most important takeaway is to not minimize or discount your children’s anxiety.

Create opportunities for conversations.

As you prepare as a family for the return to in-person learning, be sure to give your children an opportunity to voice their concerns and excitement as well. Plan to sit down for device-free dinners where conversations can happen. Spend a few extra minutes tucking them in at night and ask them how they are feeling about upcoming changes. For teens a chat while driving is an opportunity to talk without forced eye contact. Schedule an outing with children either individually or as a family, depending on how your child best communicates, where they have dedicated time where they can feel heard.

Brush up on social skills.

For some kids, it’s been a while since they had face to face interactions with other students, teachers and staff at their school. For younger kids, try role playing some basic greetings and conversations they can have with someone they haven’t seen is a while. Talk about some different conversations starters and questions they can ask. They should also think about a couple things they would want to share with friends. Going into school prepared can help kids manage the anxiety that comes with the change from virtual interactions to facet-to-face.

Create a new routine and stick to it.

Since so much about the school day will be different, the daily routine should evolve, not disappear. Structure and routine will provide stability in times of uncertainty. Kids should wake up early enough to complete their morning routine and parents should model structure by also waking up and preparing for the day. It won’t be acceptable to walk around in pajamas at school, so it shouldn’t happen at home as children get ready to make the change from home learning to classroom learning. If children are returning to virtual classes, they can still go through their morning routine even if their commute is to a desk at home.

Know when they/you need more help.

If you think your child is struggling or may need more help than you are able to provide, the IHA Pediatric Behavioral Health Care team is here for you and your children. They will work in collaboration with your child’s IHA pediatrician to improve your child or adolescent’s overall health as well as helping the family understand the child’s development. IHA Pediatric Behavioral Health Specialists are available for video appointments through any IHA Pediatric practice.

COVID-19 Vaccines 101

Understanding how the COVID-19 vaccine works

Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine has become the third COVID-19 vaccine given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a harmless adenovirus to activate an immune response to the coronavirus spike protein. As we work to vaccinate more of our patients and communities, we’re working to increase understanding around how the different vaccines work to protect against COVID-19 and why the best vaccine is the one you can get.

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of “memory” cells that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.

It typically takes a few weeks after your last dose of vaccine for your body to have the highest level of protection.

Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, feeling tired. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.

Types of Vaccines

Currently, there are two types of COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized for emergency use in the United States. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19 because they do not contain any live COVID virus.

  • mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build cells that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future. (Moderna, Pfizer- BioNTech)
  • Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a live virus—a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19—that has genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted in it (this is called a viral vector). Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build cells that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future. (Johnson and Johnson)

How the Vector COVID-19 Vaccines WorkTrinity Health

Most COVID-19 Vaccines Require More Than One Shot

All but one of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently authorized for emergency use in the United States use two shots. The first shot starts building protection. A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer. One vaccine (Johnson and Johnson) only needs one shot to provide protection.

The Bottom Line

Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for some people, it can cause severe illness or death. All vaccines have been proven to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. It doesn’t matter which vaccine you get, just get vaccinated when it is your turn.

Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like masks and physical distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.


Learn more and read frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccination.

Sports & COVID-19

Youth sports are back in Michigan…with restrictions

One of the many great disappointments during the pandemic was the loss of sports. From preschool t-ball to professional sports, being active and on a team is such an important part of so many lives. And those that don’t participate, spectate! The rules of the game have changed several times since the beginning of the pandemic, most recently with the resumption of contact sports for Michigan youth.

Beginning February 8th, in-person practice and competitions for sports leagues are now allowed…with some restrictions. For contact sports to resume, masks must be worn at all times during practices and competition. If masks can’t be worn during play, participants must be regularly tested for COVID-19, consistent with MDHHS’s Testing and Additional Mitigation Measures for Athletic Practice and Play guidance according to the state.

If your or your child’s sport of choice is non-contact and played outdoors where the athletes can maintain a social distance, masks will not be required. For all other sports, indoor or outdoor, masks or testing protocol will be required.

Following the guidance outlined by the state is crucial to stop the spread of the virus among athletes and spectators. There will be less people in the stands – up to 250 people are allowed in stadiums that seat fewer than 10,000 people, and up to 500 people are allowed at venues that seat more than 10,000 people, and those that do attend will also need to wear a mask at all times.

General Mitigation Measures for Athletics from the state of Michigan:

  • Wear a face mask at all times in practice and competition.*
  • Wash hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Use separate equipment as much as possible. Frequently clean and disinfect any shared equipment and surfaces.
  • See the MDHHS Guidance for Athletics for more recommendations to mitigate risk and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in sports.

*Exceptions are for athletes in contact sports where face masks pose a safety hazard. In these situations, additional mitigation measures, including testing before unmasked play, are required. Please see the MDHHS Guidance for Athletics for more information

For more details on the how COVID-19 impacts youth sports in Michigan visit: http://bit.ly/3s9XxV5

COVID-19 Vaccine Myths & Facts

The development of the COVID-19 vaccine brings hope that we will soon be able to hug loved ones, greet people without a mask and meet friends for dinner. While the COVID-19 vaccines available have been proven safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, it’s understandable that there may be some apprehension around getting the vaccine. We’re here to help sort out the myths from the facts, so you can confidently get your vaccination and move toward an end to the pandemic.

Visit ihacares.com/covid19 for the latest COVID-19 vaccine updates and frequently asked questions .

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

The COVID-19 vaccine offers hope for the future, but for now ending this pandemic will require all the available tools. Your best defense against COVID-19 is the combination of the vaccine, wearing a mask, social distancing and continuing to wash your hands.

If you have symptoms of COIVD-19 or have been exposed, save your spot at one of our testing locations.

Virtual Care at IHA

Communication tips for the best virtual patient experience

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many industries to rethink how they deliver services to the public. The medical field is no different. Virtual Care, or healthcare via phone, video or email, offers access to timely medical care without leaving home or entering a waiting room in-person. This format is new to a lot of patients, so we pulled together our providers recommendations for a successful telehealth medical appointment.  

  • Practice using the technology. Download the platform (IHA providers use Zoom) ahead of your appointment time. Then, make sure it works! Virtual appointments require both video and audio. Ensure your device meets the requirements, know how to join your video appointment and do so a few minutes early.
  • Consider using headphones with a microphone for better sound and privacy.
  • Know where to go to troubleshoot any issues that come up.  Logging on early will give you an opportunity to work out issues before your provider joins the conversation. Visit ihacares.com/resources/video-appointments for information on video appointments with an IHA provider.
  • Find a quiet space where you can focus on your conversation with your provider. Discourage interruptions by putting a sign on your office door or tell those around you it’s not a good time to interrupt.
  • Eliminate distractions before your appointment begins – do not login for your video appointment from the car, cafeteria, bathroom, or while making dinner.
  • Consider your background. Try to minimize natural light by not sitting in front of a window. The glare can make it difficult for your provider to see you in your video.
  • Bring a flashlight along to your appointment if you have a skin issue such as a lesion or rash to help your provider your skin. Measure the are prior to the appointment if possible.
  • Confirm your insurance coverage and copays for telehealth appointments. Virtual appointment coverage varies based on insurance companies, so be sure to confirm your personal coverage ahead of time to avoid unexpected bills.
  • Treat a virtual appointment as you would an in-person appointment. Have relevant health history and treatments at your fingertips and come prepared with your questions or concerns. Write them down beforehand if possible.
  • If you would have brought someone else with you to your in-person appointment, have them sit with you, virtually or in-person if you are living with them, for your virtual appointment. It can be helpful later to have a second person listening and even taking notes. They may hear something you miss or come up with a question you may not have thought of.
  • If you use medical devices on a regular basis (blood pressure monitor, heart monitor, thermometer, glucometer, etc.), have them close at hand during your virtual appointment. Or better yet, take readings prior to your call or video appointment.

When it comes to healthcare, we understand patients have individual needs and one size doesn’t fit all! So we offer several ways to access care – Actually 5!

Allowing patients to get care in a way that works best for them is what we’re all about. Click below to schedule your appointment, your way.

Managing Anxiety

How does anxiety look & feel during a pandemic?

by Alberto Nacif, MD

Pandemics can be stressful. Holidays and elections can be stressful. Virtual school, social distancing and not seeing friends and loved ones can be stressful too. All these things together can be a recipe for anxiety. Anxiety and fear can feel overwhelming for both adults and children alike. Sometimes it can be hard to identify anxiety or understand the strong emotions that can come along with anxiety, especially for children.

What does anxiety look and feel like?

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Changes in behavior
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances

What do you do when feeling anxious?

Being there for and taking care of family and friends is important but you should create a healthy balance with caring for yourself too. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control on coping with the stress that comes with living through a pandemic.

  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health professional before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
    • If you think you may need a COVID-19 test, save your spot at an IHA testing location: ihacares.com/saveyourspot
  • Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.
  • Make time for quiet. If you find comfort in prayer or meditation, make time to incorporate this quiet time into your day. As little as 10 minutes can make a difference in your anxiety level. 

Quick tips for taking control of your anxiety.

  1. Take control of your breathing. Try square breathing: breathe in through your nose, pause, breathe out through your mouth and pause, counting to four at each step. Watch Alberto Nacif, MD give instructions on square breathing here: https://bit.ly/2Izy1aL
  2. Tighten and relax your muscles. In areas where you feel physical tension tighten your muscles and then relax them. 
  3. Go to your happy place. Yes! It does exist! Think of a time or a place in your life where you felt at ease, happy or at peace. Focus on the positive feelings associated with this moment in time.

Know when it’s time to seek medical professional help.

If stress or anxiety get in the way of your daily life several days in a row, it may be time to contact your primary care provider. There are many resources available for managing these feelings and your provider can help you find the best fit for you.

Celebrating Thanksgiving During COVID-19

Traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. Please be sure to follow the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) orders to make your Thanksgiving holiday safer and to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household. If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your household, take steps to make your celebration safer.

Wear a Mask

  • Wear a mask with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face.

Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.

  • Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread COVID-19 or flu.
  • Keeping 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Wash your hands.

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Attending a gathering.

Make your celebration safer. In addition to following the MDHHS order, consider these additional steps while attending a Thanksgiving gathering:

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.

Hosting a gathering.

If having guests to your home, please limit the number of people based on the MDHHS order. Additional ideas that can make your celebration safer include:

  • Have a small outdoor meal.
  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils and plates.

Consider new Thanksgiving activities.

Host a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live with you

  • Schedule a time to share a meal together virtually.
  • Have people share recipes and show their turkey, dressing, or other dishes they prepared.

Watch television and play games with people in your household

  • Watch Thanksgiving Day parades, sports, and movies at home.
  • Find a fun game to play.

Shopping

  • Shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving and days leading up to the winter holidays.
  • Use contactless services for purchased items, like curbside pick-up.
  • Shop in open air markets staying 6 feet away from others.

Other Activities

  • Safely prepare traditional dishes and deliver them to family and neighbors in a way that does not involve contact with others (for example, leave them on the porch).
  • Participate in a gratitude activity, like writing down things you are grateful for and sharing with your friends and family.

Safe travel tips for college students.

There is no universal approach to Thanksgiving this year for colleges and universities. Though some are encouraging students to stay on campus for the holiday, others are allowing them to go home for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Still more are sending students home to begin their winter break or finish their semesters remotely.

Take the risk seriouslyYoung people have been identified as sources of some family outbreaks, infecting their older, more vulnerable relatives who live in the same household. Experts also point out that travel could increase students’ risk of exposure to the virus, and that holiday celebrations held indoors could facilitate transmission.

Self-quarantine and get testedIn the days before leaving campus, students should be tested, preferably with a PCR test, the laboratory test used to diagnose the coronavirus. Many colleges and universities have been regularly testing their students, and some have rolled out special guidance for holiday travel.

Source: Centers for Disease Control


Save Your Spot for drive-up COVID-19 testing at select IHA Urgent Care locations 

During this pandemic, feeling sick can be scary. If you have symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath, it is important to get tested for COVID-19. You should always contact your doctor with questions or concerns, but having test results will help with their recommendations for your care. 

IHA offers convenient drive-up COVID-19 testing for new and established patients. We offer both PCR and Rapid tests. Your provider will determine which test is best for you based on your symptoms. Rapid testing is not always recommended. Do not go to your local IHA Urgent Care or emergency department for COVID-19 testing. 

Patients in need of a COVID-19 test, please be aware:
1. You must have an appointment. Save Your Spot at one of our COVID-19 testing locations below.
2. Testing is being prioritized for symptomatic patients and patients who have had a high-risk exposure.
3. COVID-19 test results usually take 24 to 72 hours to return, but due to recent significant increases in testing – results are taking up to 5 days.
4. If you are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have not had a high-risk exposure, please visit Michigan.gov to find an alternate testing location. 

Trick-or-Treat

COVID-19 means a more frightful Halloween

By Martha Walsh, MD, MHSA, FACOG

Halloween and everything that surrounds it – trick-or-treating, costume parades, bobbing for apples – are fun, but can spread COVID-19 or other seasonal infections, like influenza. While celebrating Halloween this year will look very different from every other year, there are still ways to enjoy all that Halloween has to offer, while protecting yourself and your family from picking up a virus.

Giving Out Candy

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before handling treats, and in between trick-or-treaters
  • Wear a cloth mask

Trick-or-Treating

  • Wear a mask
    • Make your cloth mask part of your costume
    • A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask
    • Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult
    • Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Wash your hands
    • Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people
    • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
    • Parents: supervise young children using hand sanitizer
    • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you
    • Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time

Make sure you are always doing the following. Every. Single. Day.

  • Wear a mask
  • Stay 6 feet away from anyone that does not live with you – indoors and outdoors
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently

If you decide not to take your kids trick or treating this year, here are some ideas how you can enjoy Halloween safely.

  • Decorate and carve pumpkins
    • Decorate your home for Halloween.
    • Carve pumpkins with members of your household or outside with neighbors or friends.
    • Walk from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance.
  • Visit an orchard, forest, or corn maze. Attend a scavenger hunt.
    • Go on an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt.
    • Visit a pumpkin patch or orchard. Remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces, pumpkins, or apples.
    • Go to a one-way, walk-through haunted forest or corn maze.
  • Other Ideas
    • Hide Halloween treats in and around your house. Hold a Halloween treat hunt with household members.
    • Hold a socially distanced outdoor costume parade or contest so everyone can show off their costumes.
    • Host a socially distanced outdoor Halloween movie night with friends or neighbors or an indoor movie night with your household members.

Flu Before Boo!

Protect yourself and your family during flu season by getting your flu vaccine before Halloween. Scheduling your flu shot is easy! Click below and choose an appointment time that works for you.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

Play it Safe

How to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure while playing youth sports

Many youth sports leagues are easing back into practice and in some cases competition. While it’s a much-welcomed change after a summer of quarantine, whatever you or your children play, you should play it safe. There are a number of steps you can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and reduce the spread while playing sports. The more people a participant interacts with, the closer the physical interaction, the more sharing of equipment there is by multiple players, and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Therefore, risk of COVID-19 spread can be different, depending on the type of activity. Read on for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Make a game plan to reduce risk

  • Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with members of the same household
  • Increasing Risk: Team-based practice
  • More Risk: Within-team competition
  • Higher Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area (e.g., city or county)
  • Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas (e.g., outside county or state)
  • If organizations are not able to keep safety measures in place during competition (for example, keeping participants six feet apart at all times), they may consider limiting participation to within-team competition only (for example, scrimmages between members of the same team) or team-based practices only
  • Similarly, if organizations are unable to put in place safety measures during team-based activities, they may choose individual or at-home activities, especially if any members of the team are at an increased risk for severe illness
Source: CDC

Prepare before you participate in sports

  • Bring supplies to help you and others stay healthy—for example, masks (bring extra), hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, and drinking water.
  • Prioritize participating in outdoor activities over indoor activities and stay within your local area as much as possible.
  • If using an indoor facility, allow previous groups to leave the facility before entering with your team. If possible, allow time for cleaning and/or disinfecting.
  • Check the league’s COVID-19 prevention practices before you go to make sure they have steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • If you are at an increased risk for severe illness or have existing health conditions, take extra precautions and preventive actions during the activity or choose individual or at-home activities.

Stay home if sick

If the participant has symptoms of COVID-19, has been diagnosed with COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results, or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, they should stay home and not participate in any sports.

Have smaller team sizes

  • Sports with a large number of players on a team may increase the likelihood of spread compared to sports with fewer team members.
  • Limit your team to a core group of participants, by restricting non-team players from joining when your team is short players and not adding new members during the season.

Reduce physical closeness between players when possible

  • Maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and your teammates, other competitors, and officials while actively participating in the sport.
  • Focus on building individual skills, like batting, dribbling, kicking, and strength training.
  • Avoid high fives, handshakes, fist bumps or hugs.
  • Keep space between players in the practice areas, including on the sideline, dugout, and bench.
  • Wait in car or away from the playing area until just before the warm-up period or the beginning of the game.
  • Avoid congregating in the parking lot or near the field before or after games.
    • If it is not possible to avoid congregating, practice social distancing by ensuring there is at least 6 feet between participants.
    • If social distancing is not possible, wear a mask whenever possible to reduce risk of virus transmission.

Space out spectators by 6 feet

  • Limit nonessential visitors, spectators, and volunteers. Ensure they wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Wear a mask if possible

  • Wear a mask if feasible, especially when it is difficult to stay less than 6 feet apart from other people or indoors, for example in close contact sports such as basketball.
  • Lower intensity sports: Emphasize wearing masks and practicing social distancing for lower intensity sports.
  • Higher intensity sports: People who are engaged in high intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a mask if it causes difficulty breathing.
  • If unable to wear a mask, consider conducting the activity in a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (for instance, outdoors versus indoors) and where it is possible to maintain physical distance from others.
  • In situations where individuals might raise their voices, such as shouting or chanting, we strongly encourage wearing masks.
  • For youth athletes, parents, coaches, and sports administrators should decide if the kids need to wear a mask.
  • It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for masks.

Minimize sharing of equipment or gear

  • Encourage players to bring their own equipment if possible, like gloves, balls, and helmets.
  • Limit the use of frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface.
  • Bring your own water to minimize use and touching of drinking fountains.
  • Clean and disinfect shared items between use.
  • Don’t share towels, clothing, or any items used to wipe your face or hands.
  • Avoid sharing food, drink containers (e.g., coolers), and utensils.

Cover your coughs and sneezes.

  • When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Used tissues should be thrown away and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used.

Wash hands

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
    • Before and after you play.
    • Before adjusting your mask—review information about proper use, removal, and washing of masks.

Limit travel outside of your area

  • Consider competing against teams in your local area (neighborhood, town, or community).

Checklist for coaches

  • Send a welcome email or call parents (for youth players) and/or players. Inform them about actions that the sports program will take to protect players. Remind them to stay home if sick or if they have been around someone who is sick.
  • Be a role model. Wear a mask and encourage family members, fans, officials, and sports staff to wear one during practices and games.
  • Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to players before and after practice/game and encourage them to wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Educate players about covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow. Discourage spitting.
  • youths practicing basketball
  • Encourage players to focus on building individual skills
  • Remind players about social distancing and identify markers (such as signage or tape on floor).
  • Encourage your players to focus on building their individual skills and cardiovascular conditioning, so they can limit close contact with other players.
  • Check with your sports administrator to make sure they are following cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on field, court, or play surface (such as drinking fountains) at least daily or between use.
  • Clean and disinfect shared equipment.

If you have questions or concerns about your child participating in sports this fall, make an appointment to talk it over with yout pediatric provider.