MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – As high school football kicks off in the Miami Valley, medical experts and school officials are making COVID safety a priority.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) released an updated guidance for returning to fall sports in July 2021.

The guidelines say that there are no current mandates for vaccines or social distancing being enforced in relation to high school athletics. But member schools are being urged to follow COVID safety guidelines like mask wearing and social distancing.

Dr. Joseph Allen, regional medical director with Premier Health, said last year student athletes were mostly protected from COVID spread.

“There wasn’t a lot of spread on the football field,” he said. “There was spread outside of [the field] but not really on the football field its kind of amazing when you think about it.”

Allen said its the fans in the stands who should be mindful about catching and spreading COVID.

“The fans coming out there are really the ones at high risk. They’re an older population or folks that have chronic disease, but they’re not the ones playing the game or out in the field. So, you really want to do whatever it takes to feel safe with what you’re doing,” he cautioned.

Allen suggests continuing to follow public health recommendations on wearing masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated.

But overall, returning to sports should be a safe, fun activity for all.

“I think the kids are excited for it, the communities are excited to get back to doing some of the stuff that makes us feel like we’re back home again,” said Allen. “I’m very positive about it. We didn’t see a lot of spread last year [and]I’m hoping it will be the same this year.”