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NSAC announces COVID-19 testing protocol for combat sports events

DWCS LLC via Getty Images

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has announced its protocol for COVID-19 testing as combat sports organizations prepare to resume operations in the state.

In a document provided to MMA Fighting, the commission outlines its eight-section plan to ensure that combat sports events will be conducted under conditions designed to minimize the risk of infection during the coronavirus pandemic. The details of the protocol were first reported by MMA Junkie.

The NSAC executive summary is as follows:

Sport is an integral part of society, both for entertainment value and as a source of jobs for the State of Nevada, including athletes, promoters, hospitality workers, media and others. In order for combat sports to safely resume competition in Nevada, it is crucial for a robust Covid-19 testing plan to be initiated. An effective program will need to encompass direct viral detection. Introducing a closed system (no-spectators) for any competition will also greatly mitigate widespread transmission to others. As importantly, all individuals involved in an event of unarmed combat, regardless of their function, will need to go through a testing and quarantine program, overseen by Executive Director Bennett. Currently there is no mechanism to ensure competition is 100% free from Covid-19 infection. However, the protocols outlined below will significantly mitigate the chance of Covid-19 infection in combat sports.

This protocol is effective immediately and will apply to the UFC on ESPN 9 event on Saturday at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. That show and UFC 250 on June 6 were approved by the commission at a meeting on Wednesday, though live audiences will not be permitted.

Section 1 of the document states that “all personnel working the event” including fighters and their teams, promoters, staff, security, and officials will be placed under mandatory quarantine following their tests for COVID-19. A “closed system” is being prioritized, with promoters and their staff being responsible for the following:

  • securing a facility that is closed to the public for the entirety of the event
  • controlling who enters the facility
  • known whereabouts of all individuals inside the facility
  • departures of individuals from the facility

A dedicated testing area is required to be designated and cleaned regularly throughout the week by a dedicated cleaning staff following CDC guidelines. Those entering a closed system will be subject to temperature monitoring, a questionnaire, and oral fluid collection for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing, and they will be quarantined until testing results are confirmed.

Combat sports organizations will also be responsible for educating all involved parties, using CDC guidelines, and to establish communication procedures to best provide updates on any COVID-19 related situations.

Per Section 2, pre-test screening will involve answering whether the individual has had a fever or a temperature above 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 72 hours, if they have come into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, if they have traveled to a high-risk area in the past two weeks or been under government-mandated quarantine, and if they have recently experienced any number of systems including, but not limited to, shortness of breath, chills, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, muscle pain, diarrhea, or fatigue.

Questionnaires will be reviewed by a professional medical consultant.

Only PCR testing will be conducted in accordance with its approval by the FDA, with physicians on hand to oversee the oral fluid sample collection process. Per the protocol, only FDA-approved oral fluid kits shall be used.

“If no oral fluid kits are available, it is acceptable to use FDA-approved nasal swabs, however, the first choice should always be saliva for ease of collection and sensitivity of the assay,” the protocol states. “After collection, the sample shall be transported to a laboratory to run an FDA-approved PCR assay for Covid-19.”

Suspicion of COVID-19 infection via the questionnaire or a positive test will result in the individual remaining in quarantine and an infectious disease expert being consulted.

Section 3 states “all personnel will follow the State of Nevada Social Distancing Guidelines including the wearing of a mask at all times,” with gloves being a recommended option.

According to Section 5, any personnel that test positive is “required to seek immediate primary care, self-quarantine in the state of Nevada for 14 days and shall not be allowed to travel by air until cleared.” Failure to comply will result in the individual being prohibited from entering closed systems or participating in future combat sports events in Nevada until these protocols are no longer necessary.

Section 6 regarding Health and Safety, strictly forbids any individual from entering “any unarmed combat venue without having complied with section 1 & 2.”

The document also states in Section 4 that contract tracing — a core disease control measure used to determine how much an individual may have already spread an infection — will be the financial responsibility of the promoter.

Section 7 states that “All promoters will submit their promoter/venue specific plans to the commission’s Executive Director for approval and must be in accordance with sections 1-6,” while Section 8 adds that any personnel in violation of those sections will be subject to disciplinary action from the NSAC.

Any combat sports event in Nevada requires the submission of a Promoters Operational Plan that must include the following:

  • Essential Plan and Summary
  • Visual method to identify personnel who have been tested and cleared to enter the closed event, such as colored wrist bands
  • Contact names and telephone numbers for key personnel
  • Hotel Accommodations for all out of state participants; including officials, fighters, staff, etc.
  • Health and Safety Procedures
  • Detailed plan for all personnel quarantined after COVID-19 Tests (saliva)
  • Athlete/Participants Training/Transportation•Event Operational Plan for Fight Week including sections 1-8
  • Trauma Center One Hospital
  • Production Personnel
  • Media rooms
  • Plan for COVID-19 Testing of Personnel After Event
  • Floor Plans/Schematics identifying: training areas; meals; COVID-19 Testing night before or day of weigh-in; quarantine areas for all individuals after testing until results are received; Boxing Ring / Octagon designating all individuals in the event no less than six feet; dressing rooms fighters/team and designated area for Inspectors; media rooms; Emergency Medical Services to include route from closed arena to vehicles; and designated area of security personnel for closed event to the public

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