Per May 12 email from Paul Kaufman:
We have received a couple of clarifying questions regarding the COVID policies for next week. So that everyone can be on the same page, we are sharing the answers here.
Q1: When you say a rapid test, do you mean a Binax test or something of that kind?
A: Yes! Tests like the BinaxNow or iHealth or FlowFlex or the ones sent by the Department of Health and Human Services to homes for free… any of those are antigen tests that would qualify for our purposes. We are not suggesting any particular brand or testing company. Our goal was to make it clear that PCR/molecular testing is not required.
Q2: When we submit our report on the team’s status to compete, will that mean giving the individual health status of each student?
A: No. The only information you will be required to provide electronically if there is a positive test is the role of each positive individual (coach, participating student, non-participating student). If your team has a positive test or tests, we will likely have you speak with a member of the Host Committee to try and figure out an approach. At that point, we may ask for more information about the COVID-positive individual(s), their recent contact with official team members, etc., so we can work together on a response plan.
Q3: If a team cannot compete because of COVID-positive tests, for example because it has multiple positive tests, does that mean the opposing team also has to compete virtually? In other words, if our team is fine but the other team has to compete virtually, do we have to compete virtually?
A: Yes. If there is a team that cannot compete due to COVID, that round will be virtual. It is necessary to move the full round virtual for several reasons, including fairness, the challenging logistics of a hybrid trial, and the absence of a tested rules set governing hybrid trials.
We will discuss the exact protocol to be followed with the teams involved, but the likeliest approach will be for each team to return to its hotel rooms – or homes or school, if the team has not traveled – and compete there. We strongly recommend one room be used for witnesses and another for attorneys, to avoid feedback.
Q4: If we have a team member test positive before we travel, should we just stay home and compete virtually?
A: That is an option. However, we want to stress that a single positive test on a team does not mean a per se end to all participation. As we stated in our initial guidance, teams able to compete without a COVID-positive student or coach in the room may seek Board permission to do so.
The Board’s understanding of current CDC guidance may allow asymptomatic, vaccinated individuals who test negative but had an exposure to participate, assuming those individuals wear a tight-fitting mask (i.e. an N95 or similar mask). As an additional precaution, the Board would likely require both teams in any such round to mask fully, and we would certainly consider the position of the other team, if it objected to competing in person under such conditions. (In such a case, we would simply have the teams compete virtually for that round, in the hope that the team with a COVID-positive member would be able to participate in in-person rounds against teams without the same concern.)
Of course, if there are multiple members of a team who test positive, or if a team with only six members has an official team member test positive – and thus would not have enough students to compete – it may make sense for the team to remain home.
Teams that come to compete in person despite having close contact with a known COVID-positive individual in the days before the tournament may be asked to rapid-test one or more additional times on site, depending on the particulars of the exposure, in order to address the lag between potential COVID infection/transmissibility and antigen testing. This will be addressed on a case-by-case basis with any affected team during the consultation with the Host Committee and the National Board we anticipate will follow any positive test.
Q5: Is there a refund if there is a positive test on my team?
A: Unfortunately, no. One of the reasons that we worked hard as an NHSMTC community to articulate what our protocols could be in advance was to allow teams to make the best possible decisions about their travel and other expenses, because at this point, the Host has incurred the full costs of an in-person competition for all registered teams and thus cannot be asked to provide refunds.
The Board strongly recommends that teams test shortly before leaving for Little Rock, to give both you and us as much time to react and adjust as possible. Any team that has any positive test should immediately submit the online form, which will be active by Monday morning, and should immediately also email the Host Committee at email@example.com with the subject line POSITIVE TEST, copying me at this address, to let us know that there is an issue. We will respond promptly to any such email received during waking hours and immediately upon waking to those that are not.
In addition, as noted in the initial COVID protocol email, every team should travel with an adequate number of tight-fitting masks, in case you’re asked to compete in them, either because your team has an exposure risk or another team does. Each team coming prepared for this possibility allows the Board to hold as many in-person rounds as teams and volunteers are comfortable having.
The Board recognizes that there are varying approaches to COVID mitigation and that these are complex, multifarious issues that we all will be trying to manage in real time. We are doing our best to ensure as much participation as possible, and we appreciate the care and courtesy with which all of our teams are approaching these issues.