Points of Contact | Background | Phases and Timeline | Responsibility, Liability, and Third Party Events | COVID-19 Participant Code and Conduct and Risk Assessment Form | COVID-19 Screening | Sport Specific Guidance | Individuals at High Risk | Venue Set-up | Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) | Fundraising | Medical Operations and First Aid
Points of Contact
1. Who do I contact with questions?
For local volunteers and participants, please contact your Accredited Program office.
For Accredited Program staff, please contact your Regional Office or contact Special Olympics, Inc. with general questions by emailing COVID@specialolympics.org.
For liability or legal questions, email Legal@specialolympics.org. (6/17/2020)
2. How do we let our Region and SOI know who is the selected point of contact for our Program?
You can complete the web form to submit the name of the person who will serve as your Program’s point of contact. There will be periodic calls to address questions/concerns and share best practices, challenges and feedback. (6/17/2020)
1. How was this protocol developed and who was consulted?
In order to address the complexity of this issue and our global movement, we set up a process that allowed for, and will continue to allow for, subject matter expert and stakeholder input, with the expectation that multiple iterations of this guidance may be required.
First, we gathered guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), US Center for Disease Control (CDC), multiple governments, sports governing bodies, and other organizations. We developed stakeholder input panels. Specifically, a COVID medical advisory working group was convened. Input was sought from Program CEOs, staff and athletes, legal, and risk management, human resources, programmatic leads (sport, health, youth/schools, leadership), Global Medical Advisory Committee, and Regional Presidents. In addition, we had review by World Athletics/IPC (International Paralympic Committee), CDC, USOPC (US Olympics and Paralympic Committee) and others. (6/17/2020)
Phases and Timeline
1. What is the timeline for roll-out?
Starting July 1, 2020, Programs may begin in phase 1 provided that their state/country authorities have moved out of “Stay at Home”/shut down orders. The timeline for each phase will be dependent on the state/country authorities in which the Programming is occurring. If authorities have announced an end to the “Stay at Home” order, the Program may begin with Phase 1 of the Special Olympics protocol with gatherings of 10 people or less (if local regulations are more stringent, then those must be followed). When local authorities have moved to the second phase after “Stay at Home”, Programs may choose to move to Phase 2 of the Special Olympics protocol. The Special Olympics guidance is intended as a minimum standard, not to replace any local regulations or guidance. If your locale has more stringent restrictions in place, Programs must follow those. Programs are expected to remain in each phase for at least 2 weeks, even if local areas move through phases more quickly. (6/17/2020)
Programs should also refer to governmental guidance and revert to earlier phases if COVID-19 transmission increases. For example, if the Program were currently in Phase 1, but the local authorities determine that the community must resume “Stay at Home” orders, you must revert to Phase 0. (6/17/2020)
2. Is there any further guidance for events between 50 people (Phase 2) and no size restrictions (Phase 3)?
Additional guidance may be developed in this area as needed. (6/18/2020)
Responsibility, Liability, and Third Party Events
1. What responsibility and liability does the Program have for implementing this protocol?
As insurance coverage will be dependent on a number of factors, it is recommended that Programs contact their insurance providers. Programs are also encouraged to contact their legal counsel regarding issues of liability. If a US Program, you may contact American Specialty. (6/18/2020)
2. Does this protocol apply to events hosted by a third party but at which Special Olympics participants are invited to attend?
If the event is hosted by a third party and Special Olympics athletes or participants are being invited to attend, the third party host organization should assume all responsibility. While a Program would defer to the rules and regulations of the third-party host, it is recommended Programs understand the safety and health measures the host will be implementing in order to help participants determine if they would feel safe attending. If Special Olympics is responsible for organizing aspects of participation (e.g., travel, accommodation, etc.), it is recommended that you follow the protocols for those aspects at a minimum. (6/17/2020)
The possibility of high-risk conditions in populations within the Special Olympics movement should be conveyed to leaders/authorities. (6/17/2020)
Participants, parents, guardians and caregivers should be provided with education on Special Olympics guidelines and relevant acknowledgements or expectations (conduct expectations, waivers, etc.) of participants by the hosting party. (6/17/2020)
3. Do we have an obligation to report and how do we find out how to do that while respecting privacy laws within our state/country/area/territory? Should we advise our local programs to report directly to the health department, or notify participants within a training group immediately, or defer to the Accredited Program to notify if someone in the group is diagnosed with COVID-19?
Per the Protocol, the Program has an obligation to know the reporting process for their state/country/area/territory to ensure they are following the preferred process by local authorities for reporting as well for contract tracing. Programs may be responsible for providing a list of participants who were in attendance, if the local authorities request to help with contract tracing. This is why the protocol requires keeping track of participants, in addition to internal purposes.
In terms of notification of other participants if there is a Special Olympics participant who is found to be COVID-19, Special Olympics Programs should notify participants that were at the event that an individual in attendance tested positive (without disclosing identifying information) as soon as possible and instruct individuals to contact their healthcare provider for further guidance. Those individuals should not return to activities until after 14 days from exposure, if they do not have symptoms or test positive themselves. (7/10/20)
3. In Phase 1 and Phase 2 , does the number restriction include any non-Special Olympics staff may be running/employees of the venue/facility, or other members of the public at the same venue who are not part of our Special Olympics group, or just the Special Olympics participants?
If venue staff will not be interacting with the athletes and are not consistently within 6 feet/2 meters of the Special Olympics group, these facility staff would not count against your 10 or 50 or less limit. If the facility staff are mixing with the group and within 6 feet/2 meters during the activity and/or will be leading activities, then they should be counted in the number of participants.
In addition to Special Olympics guidance, of course, Programs will have to follow the guidance of the venue/facility (as well as the local authorities) if more stringent in terms of number of participants allowed within the venue/facility overall for Phase 1 and 2. If there are other groups in the space, it is the responsibility of the venue to follow local guidance to control and applicable venue capacity limits and/or physical distancing requirements amongst groups in the venue. However, if the venue is not operating in a safe manner, or in conjunction with the general infection control precautions, the Program should consider switching venue or ceasing activities, until they can be done safely. (7/1/20)
COVID-19 Participant Code and Conduct and Risk Assessment Form
1. How should Programs keep track of the COVID-19 Participant Code of Conduct and Risk Assessment form?
SOI is not mandating a specific process for collecting or tracking forms, but encourages Programs to develop a system that will work for their context, participants and staff. For those Programs that would like to track within GMS, a certification has been built. You may import the certification into your current version of GMS. Contact GMSHelp@specialolympics.org for instructions on how to Import it. (6/17/2020)
2. How long does a Program need to keep the screening and participation reports and the Participant Risk and Code of Conduct Form?
Programs should follow their respective Record Retention Policies and Protocols regarding the retention and destruction of records related to health and other documents. (6/17/2020)
3. What happens if someone refuses to sign the COVID-19 Participant Code of Conduct and Risk Assessment form?
The main focus should be on the education and emphasizing that we are keeping everyone safe and strongly encouraging signing of the document. The Code of Conduct is not a legally binding document. Ultimately, it is at the discretion of the Programs as to how to handle a participant who refuses to sign. (6/17/2020)
4. May a Program modify the COVID-19 Code of Conduct and Risk Form?
Programs may add to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct and Risk Form, but we request that information not be deleted. Please note that the Special Olympics Inc. legal team has advised that this form should not include indemnification language. (6/25/20)
5. Who must complete the COVID-19 Code of Conduct and Risk Assessment Form?
All Special Olympics participants (Athletes, Unified partners, Coaches, Volunteers, families/caregivers who will be in attendance, and SO Staff) should complete the form. It is at a Program’s discretion as to whether or not to request venue staff (e.g., bowling alley or recreational center staff) complete the form. The Program may want to give consideration to what precautions the venue is already taking, as well as the proximity and duration of the venue staff to the Special Olympics participants both in terms of having the form completed and in determining if the venue should be used. (7/1/20)
6. Can people fill out the code of conduct/risk form online instead of paper?
Programs may have participants and/or caregivers completing the form online with an electronic signature. Note, the COVID-19 Code of Conduct is not considered a legal document. (7/1/20)
1. For the screening form, when asking if you have had any exposure to COVID-19, how immediate should the contact / exposure be/have been?
Only report if the participant has had direct contact with someone who has had COVID-19, not that someone has been in contact with a friend who had another friend that had COVID-19. (6/17/2020)
2. What if our Program doesn’t have the capacity to do thermometer screenings onsite?
Standard of care and medical authorities recommend that, in Phases 1 and 2, temperature checks should be done onsite for any in-person activities to supplement the questionnaire portion of the screening. However, we understand this is a challenge for many Programs. We strongly encourage that you follow this best practice when feasible (and that you must do so when required by local authorities). If unable to conduct onsite temperature checks, you must still ask the screening questions (including the self-report question on whether the participants has a fever). Additionally, be sure you have provided proper education and instruction to participants in regards to staying home if they show any signs and symptoms of illness, including fever (100.4°F/37.8°C or higher). (6/18/2020)
3. Does the COVID screening violate HIPAA (applicable in the US only)?
At this time, Special Olympics is exempt from HIPAA as HIPAA only applies if organizations/providers transmit personal health information (PHI) electronically for transactions that HHS has adopted standards including submitting for financial claims, or is considered a clearinghouse or a health plan. However, the Program and coaches should still put in place a process to protect health information as best as possible in terms of storing and sharing medical information. (7/1/20)
4. If a Special Olympics participant was potentially exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 at a different location (e.g., their school or home or work) and not the Special Olympics event, do we need to shut down practice and have all participants quarantine?
- The recommended protocol for Special Olympics activities would be that the individual who was potentially exposed must stay home and should not attend practice or SO events until 14 days after exposure. They should be reminded to monitor their symptoms and consult with a doctor to discuss the need for testing and/or treatment.
- If the exposure is known to have taken place before the last time this individual was at an SO event (e.g., they attended practice on Wednesday and the potential exposure took place the previous Monday), the Program may want to consider having virtual practices for two weeks, to ensure there wasn’t spread.
- If the SO individual ultimately develops symptoms and test positives, then practice must be suspended for at least 2 weeks and all participants should be notified, while maintaining privacy, that an individual at Special Olympics event they attended has tested positive for COVID-19. As with all recommendations, consult with your local guidance to ensure you are in compliance with local rules and regulation. (7/27/20)
Sport Specific Guidance
1. Are there specific sports that are not allowed to return in certain phases?
Sporting activities should focus on individual skill development and conditioning to avoid indirect contact until Phase 2 and direct contact until phase 3. For example, you might resume basketball individual skills practice in phases 1 and 2, but not scrimmages or games until phase 3. Or you might fully resume singles bocce in Phase 1, with small groups, physical distancing, and sanitation/disinfection protocols in place.
A Program may choose how and when they return to each sport, provided they follow the precautions and infection control outlined in the Protocol for each phase. The sport specific resources document provides an outline of some basic risk categories. It also provides links to how specific sport federations and associations recommend modifications to programming and training. (6/17/2020)
2. Could you clarify “indirect contact” and “direct contact”? Is passing a soccer ball considered “indirect contact”?
In this context, “indirect contact” is considered an activity where a ball or equipment is touched or in contact with an individual’s hands/skin and then directly touching another individual’s hands/skin without disinfection. An example of indirect contact would be a basketball or football or softball being passed around between participants. Individual drills for those sports with disinfection of equipment/ball in between uses is permitted. For example, an individual practices dribbling and then the ball being disinfected before being used by the next individual to practice their skills. Soccer drills that involve passing the ball by kicking and staying 6 feet/2 meters apart is not indirect contact as the contact is via the covered foot, not skin.
Note: scrimmage or full play of any sports such as basketball, football, volleyball, floor hockey, or soccer, etc. however, would be considered direct contact as bodies are regularly in contact with one another. (7/1/20)
3. Can Bocce Doubles be done in Phase 1 if proper physical distancing can be maintained?
Provided the proper physical distancing and the disinfection between use of the balls is maintained, then Bocce doubles may be done. The sport specific list is outlining general risk categories – not what sports that can and cannot be done in each Phase. As noted in the Special Olympics Sport Specific recommendations, risk can decline if the requirements for disinfection and distancing, and PPE are maintained. (7/1/20)
Individuals at High Risk
1. Why are participants living in long-term care facilities considered high risk?
The list of individuals at high-risk is based on guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). Research has shown that individuals with disabilities living in long-term care facilities are at increased risks of transmission as well as complications. The intention behind this is in regards to individuals living in licensed long-term care facilities. (6/18/2020)
This issue will continued to be evaluated and further guidance may still come on this topic. (6/18/2020)
2. Are we restricting participation, preventing athletes and volunteers from participating if they identify as “high risk”? Are we treating athletes and volunteers exactly the same? i.e. do we restrict athletes and allow volunteers?
At this time, the recommendation from SOI is that all individuals who identify as high risk should be strongly encouraged to stay home, but the guidance does not mandate that a Program must restrict participation on this basis. This guidance applies to all participants (athletes, coaches, volunteers, etc.). However, it is the responsibility of the Program to ensure that participants are provided education and information about hygiene and prevention measures, as well as who is considered at high risk, per CDC and WHO guidelines so they can make an informed decision regarding their participation. Additionally, the Program is responsible for implementing safety control measures to mitigate risk of all participants in attendance. The Program should also have alternative ways for engagement via virtual or at home activities, as feasible. This guidance will continue to be evaluated based on evolving clinical and legal considerations. (6/25/20)
1. How should food and beverages at events be handled?
During Phases 1 and 2, participants should bring their own food and water/beverage if needed, when possible. There should be no shared food nor shared water jugs/beverage dispensers – individual bottles and packages only. No self-service buffets, salad bars or beverage stations. Participants should be served or prepackaged “grab and go” meals in a bag with disposable utensils, napkin, hand wipe included. Condiments should be in individual packages - not large bottles for group use. (6/17/2020)
Volunteers distributing should be wearing gloves and masks (for phases as required by local regulations). (6/17/2020)
Have handwashing station close to meal area. (6/17/2020)
Have marked spaces where the individuals will eat showing 2m/6ft separation during phases 1 and 2. Spacing between each person may need supervision. (6/17/2020)
2. What is meant by handwashing facility or station? What type of hand sanitizer should be used?
For a handwashing facility or portable station, there should be access to clean water, soap and paper towels to dry hands. Ideally should be more than one facility as the events get larger (50 people). (6/17/2020)
Have signage reminding participants about hand hygiene and proper techniques for washing hands and using hand sanitizer. (6/17/2020)
Hand sanitizer should be with at least 60% alcohol. (6/17/2020)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
1. May I use my Healthy Athletes grant to cover the costs of PPE for events other than Healthy Athletes? Are there any other resources to help Programs obtain PPE?
The Healthy Athletes Capacity grant funds may be used to cover the costs of PPE for Healthy Athlete Events and some supplies purchased for use at Healthy Athletes events (e.g., temporal thermometers) may be re-used for other events. Specific guidance on the purchase of PPE with Healthy Athlete capacity grants to be used exclusively for non-Healthy Athletes events (e.g., sports practice or competition) is still under discussion with our funders and is not yet approved. (6/17/2020)
In the U.S., Department of Education grant funds may be used to assist with PPE for school-based activities. Please contact the UCS grant management team with questions. (6/18/2020)
We are also in discussion with some vendors about possible discounted rates for bulk ordering. (6/17/2020)
For other sources, we recommend having discussions with Ministries of Health, Sport and Education. Additionally, Programs may wish to join with other non-profits in community to consider efforts of purchasing supplies at discounted rates. Lastly, there is guidance on low cost ways of making masks and hand sanitizer available. (6/17/2020)
2. May a participant use a face shield instead of a mask?
It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. At this time, clinical guidance suggests that a face shield should be used in addition to a facemask in certain clinical settings, not as a replacement for a mask. A face shield alone does not provide proper protection from the spread of COVID-19 via droplets in the air. At this time, it is not recommended that a face shield be used instead of a facemask at Special Olympics activities. (7/1/20)
Here is a resource from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Boggs Center to help explain the need for and the usage of masks for individuals with ID.
3. If someone says they have a medical reason for not being able to wear a facemask, how should a Program handle this?
At this time, if an individual is unable to wear a mask for any reason, they will not be able to participate in Special Olympics activities. The use of the mask is not only to protect the individual, but to protect others in attendance and reduce possible transmission. Individuals unable or unwilling to wear a mask in Phases 1 and 2 should be invited to participate in virtual or at home activities. (7/1/20)
1. Does this protocol apply to fundraising events or do the local authority guidelines for the state/province/territory/country apply?
Programs expected to follow the rules and regulations from their local/state/provincial/federal/territorial authorities in regards to hosting fundraising events and participation in Phases 1 and 2. Disinfection and infection control measures should be included. Special Olympics participants with high risk reminded it is recommended they stay home until Phase 3. Additional guidance forth coming. (6/18/2020)
2. Can Athlete Leaders participate in fundraising events, in a specific role/leadership role related to the event, in Phases 1, 2 or 3?
In the spirit of equity and respect, Athlete Leaders may participate if they are playing a specific leadership role in the event. However, we highly recommend:
- the number of Athlete Leaders be kept to essential participants only AKA those with specific roles (e.g., Global Messenger);
- that each athlete (or their legal guardian) sign the Special Olympics COVID-19 Participant Code of Conduct and Risk Assessment form;
- that each Athlete Leader be screened on site upon arrival for symptoms and exposure;
- that the Athlete Leader receive education about the expected health and safety behaviors to be demonstrated by them at the event (and that they will be held accountable for adhering to them)
- and that they not be pressured or made to feel they have to participate on behalf of the Program. (7/10/20)
3. May athletes participate in in-person fundraising events in Phases 1, 2 or 3 (events in Phase 1 highly unlikely due to capacity restraints)?
If an athlete wishes to participate in a fundraising event as a paying entrant/registrant, like any other supporter, they are welcome to but would need to assume all liability for their own health and safety, as would all other event participants/members of the general public. As mentioned, above, the fundraising event must follow all local regulations in regards to hosting gatherings. (7/10/20)
Medical Operations and First Aid
1. How do you handle a situation where first aid must be administered during an activity?
First aid should absolutely be provided by coaches, volunteers, or staff if required during an activity, even if physical distancing is not feasible during the aid. If it is a medical emergency, call the local emergency medical services (E.g., (9-1-1 in the US). If it is a non-medical emergency, but basic first aid is needed, individuals providing care should follow proper hand hygiene and wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer and put on a surgical facemask and disposable gloves prior to administering first aid. If the athlete is breathing and conscious, they should also be wearing a face covering. Administer the first aid and then properly dispose of all supplies and gloves. After care is provided, ensure individuals follow proper hand hygiene and wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer. All activities should have a basic first aid kit on site which should also include a surgical facemask, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizer/disinfectant. A face shield or protective eye wear may also be useful. (7/27/20)