Coronavirus & Athletics: Providing Safe Field Conditions in the Future
As news of the COVID-19 virus intensifed athletic directors and facilitities managers equally intensified the efforts to disinfect associated locker rooms and indoor facilities. Basketball, wrestling and other winter activities were winding down and post-season tournaments were about to begin and those in charge wanted to provide assurance of the safety steps enacted. Then came the postponements and eventual cancellations of such events.
Across the country spring sport athletics have been postponed or canceled. While the absence of spring sports may assist in the effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, it doesn’t mean a time of respite for athletic departments which have outdoor artificial turf facilities. Now is the time to redress the cleaning and disinfection process in place for the artificial turf facilities.
Prior to the postponement/shut down of spring activities it’s likely athletes from lacrosse, baseball, fastpitch and track may have had contact with these outdoor surfaces. As many public school districts traditionally allow residents to utilize facilities (a track surrounding the football field, e.g.), there is the possibility of virus exposure prior to any self-quarantine directives or facility closures.
Scientific claims have COVID-19 being active on plastic surfaces 2–3 days. However, a Journal of Hospital Inspection published report regarding a related coronavirus (causing SARS) may last on such surfaces as long a nine days. While the ime between the facility closure and a scheduled turf cleaning may eclipse those parameters, athletic/recreation directors may want to include such discussion on upcoming maintenance agendas.
Artificial turf manufacturers/installers provide the necessary guidelines on proper care and disinfecting turf is certainly not a foreign proposition to athletic departments. The growing presence of the current infill variety of turfs available for over a decade now have resulted in the necessity to disinfect on a regular basis. Until now the focal point was to assure parents, athletes and others the necessary precautions are taken to prevent the spread of MRSA, but the various products sold to athletic departments also have the ability to kill mold, mildew, virus and fungi at the cellular level.
Will those products work against COVID-19? That’s a question which should be on the minds of every athletic director at this time. A quick scan of websites providing synthetic turf disinfecting products is a starting point as some products have updated information regarding the ability to combat the current coronavirus situation.
Information about curtailing the spike is a part of every day life, yet there are continual concerns over the chance of recurrence later in the year. Athletic directors should continue a department’s diligence to address these concerns. What if the fall sports are permitted? Will there be additional disinfecting cleanings of turf? Will it be monthly? Weekly? These questions are just the beginning of the athletic department brainstorming.