Less than a week removed from the Illinois High School Association's move to Phase 4 of its Return To Play Guidelines, major modifications to those guidelines came from the direction of the Illinois Department of Public Health Thursday.
In a copy of an email from IHSA executive director Craig Anderson that was obtained by the Daily Journal, three significant changes to last week's new phase will significantly alter how teams of all sports assumed they would be able to work out.
In these changes comes the elimination of contact days, which were just granted last weekend. While Phase 3 allowed for nothing more than conditioning, student-athletes will still be able to perform sport-specific activities such as playing catch, running routes, etc., but will no longer be allowed physical contact with other players.
Masks are also now required by all involved, including during physical activity, while indoors. Masks are not required outside, although social distancing rules do still apply both inside and outside.
Lastly, the 50-person groups that were permitted last week are still allowed, but that figure now includes all people that are present, spectators included.
In a press release issued Thursday evening, the IHSA said that an increase in positive COVID-19 cases at some schools spurred the changes.
"Due to an increase in positive cases of COVID-19 among high school teams around the state, the Illinois High School Association and Illinois Department of Public Health are jointly collaborating to modify the IHSA's Phase 4 Return To Play Guidelines," the release said. "The modifications place greater restrictions on coaches and student-athletes in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Important changes include limiting physical contact and an increased usage of masks. The former restricts schools from conducting contests against other schools in most sports, including 7-on-7 in football.
"The IHSA is working with IDPH to update the guidelines, and will send to its membership, the media, and post on the web as soon as they are approved."
The full list of the Phase 4 Return To Play Guidelines can be found here (note: this list does not include the new requirements released today). More information will be available in Saturday's edition of The Daily Journal.