Covid-19 Testing Requirements for Student Athletes


Washington Interscholastic Activities Association



(August 24, 2021) - The following are answers to frequently asked questions submitted to WIAA staff about the latest K-12 guidance for schools. Please note that this document is intended to highlight key policies and add clarity to the DOH policies, it does not reflect WIAA policies.  The full language issued by the DOH can be accessed here.

WIAA staff strongly encourages each school to work with their risk manager while planning for a return to participation.


Q:         How often do students need to be tested?

A:         In response to recent sports-related outbreaks, the testing requirements for high-risk sporting activities has been updated to require screening testing of all athletes, coaches, trainers and supporting personnel (does not include bus drivers or event staff), regardless of vaccination status. Further, the testing frequency has increased to 3 times weekly. Among those screening tests, at least one must occur no sooner than the day before the competition; ideally and whenever possible, the day of the event.

Q:         If an athlete has tested positive in the last 90 days, do they have to participate in the testing program?

A:         Athletes who have recovered from a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection within the past three months and remain without symptoms may participate in team sport activities without testing if they have a letter from their provider attesting they had a laboratory-confirmed viral test (molecular or antigen) within this time frame. 

Any participant that displays COVID-19 symptoms at any time, regardless of prior COVID-19 diagnosis, must stay home and self-isolate in accordance with CDC guidance. The participant must resume testing after 90 days from the date of symptom onset from the laboratory- confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.

Q:         We are hosting a tournament with schools coming from out of state, do they need to test and follow the same protocols as our Washington schools?

A:         Yes, schools that are coming from outside of Washington to the state to participate in a tournament or any non-league contests will need to show vaccination status or a negative test result in order to participate.

Q:         Are face masks needed during warm-ups for indoor sports?

A:         No, while warming up before a contest, athletes do not have to wear a mask. Students are required to mask while on the bench or not actively participating during the contest.  

Q:         Testing so often seems to be detrimental to students’ health with the chemicals that are used on the swabs. Why are these tests being used since they have not been approved by the FDA?

A:         Under section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), when the Secretary of HHS declares that an emergency use authorization is appropriate, e.g., a public health emergency, the FDA can use its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) authority to allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products, to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases when certain criteria are met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives. These include medical therapeutics, e.g., monoclonal antibodies, Remdesivir, vaccines, as well as medical diagnostics, e.g., molecular and antigen tests. As of October  8, 2021, the FDA has authorized approximately 400 COVID-19 tests and sample collection devices and over 600 revisions to such EUAs.  At this time, there are no current medical diagnostics that have received FDA approval.  On August 23, 2021, FDA approved a Biologics License Application for use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty (Pfizer, Inc.), in persons aged ≥16 years. This is currently the only FDA approved medical product to address the COVID-19 pandemic. More information on the tests from the DOH can be found here.

Q:         If my student does not want to participate in screening, can they mask and still participate?

A:         No, in order to compete or perform in high-contact indoor and high-aerosol indoor sports/activities, unvaccinated athletes will have to participate in screening or go through the vaccination process. Masking is only an option during the off-season practice time, such as open gyms.

Q:         Are middle school students required to test?

A:        Yes, middle school students and schools should follow the same guidelines for testing as the high schools (all high-contact indoor and high-aerosol indoor activities).

Q:        Do unvaccinated coaches, trainers, and other personnel who work with athletes in high contact, indoor sports also need to participate in screening?

A:        Yes, all unvaccinated coaches, trainers, and other personnel who work with athletes in high contact indoor sports also need to participate in screening.

Q:        Do coaches have to wear their masks when they are actively coaching, whether on the bench or in practice?

A:        Yes, the guidelines require anyone not playing or actively officiating in indoor high-contact sports to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. This does include on the bench area and in practice.

Q:         We found a DOH document that states it is illegal and unethical to test students without parent consent, why are we testing and how does my district opt out of this?

A:        We have contacted the DOH for guidance on this language. From the DOH: “As this relates to athletic activities that require testing (high risk/high contact), participating in the testing protocol is a requirement to participate in the athletic activity. A student, or parent/guardian of a student, may decide not to consent to testing, but then the student would not be allowed to participate in the activity.”

Q:         Are vaccination verifications required at school events?

A:         Based on the Governor’s proclamation October 14, 2021, K-12 events are exempt from the vaccination verification process regardless of the venue. All masking requirements for indoor and outdoor are still applicable.

Q:         How often, or when, are we supposed to supply testing information to the DOH?

A:         Schools need to be reporting within 24 hours to DOH through SimpleReport with all positive tests. As of 9/9 negative results do not have to be reported. Schools need to report manually using the Excel method until they have registered for their SimpleReport information. DOH is working on a bulk electronic upload, when available, schools will upload all negative test results. 

Q:        If we have a positive test, who does the contact tracing?

A:        Contact tracing needs to be coordinated with local DOH. Only students that have been vaccinated would be exempt from quarantine if not exhibiting symptoms. Schools should immediately work with their local DOH to work through the appropriate steps.

Q:         If a student who tests positive believes there is a false positive, can a second test be given?

A:         If someone thinks there is a false positive, a molecular test may be offered. If that result comes back negative, teams should work with local public health to determine if that person can return to practice and competition.

Q:         Is there a pathway for athletes to get back to competition sooner than 14 days?  Currently some schools use the CDC guidance for reduction of testing on day 5 of quarantine if symptom free and coming back on day 8 if the test is negative?

A:         Yes, there are four options for the quarantine process within the document. Schools should review this information and implement as necessary.

Q:         What are the guidelines for weight room activities?

A:        Universal masking is required by all athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and support personnel when in weight rooms, regardless of vaccination status.

Q:         Can you have student sections indoors?

A:         Yes, but it is recommended in the guidelines that students be spaced 6 feet apart with masks on.

Q:         Are concessions allowed this year?

A:         Yes, concession stands are allowed indoors and outdoors. Masks are required for any indoor space however, so should be utilized in enclosed spaces at outdoor venues as well.

Q:         Can schools cross state borders for competition?

A:         Yes, the travel restrictions have been lifted at this time.