High school athletes now required to wear masks during games
Fri, 09/11/2020 - 3:06pm caleb
Students playing football, volleyball, and soccer must wear face coverings during competition
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The State of Michigan officially extended its mask mandate into the world of high school athletics with recent executive orders from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer that require face coverings for athletes on the field and on the court for several sports.
Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-176 – a revised “Safe Start” order – includes a section regarding “Organized Sports.”
“Athletes participating in an organized sport, while on the field of play, are not subject to the social distancing requirements of this order, but instead must maintain six feet of distance from one another to the extent compatible with that organized sport, and wear a facial covering except when swimming. Sports organizers shall ensure that athletes comply with this subsection for each organized sporting event,” according to Executive Order 2020-176.
On Wednesday, September 9, Governor Whitmer signed an amendment to the organized sports regulations with Executive Order 2020-180, clarifying specific masking rules for high school athletics.
“Athletes training for, practicing for, or competing in an organized sport must wear a facial covering (except when swimming) or consistently maintain 6 feet of social distance (except for occasional and fleeting moments). For example, an athlete participating in a football, soccer, or volleyball game would not be able to consistently maintain 6 feet of distance, and therefore would need to wear a facial covering,” according to Executive Order 2020-180.
“I know that we are all passionate about sports. This is a part of who we are, it’s part of how we come together, it’s how we support good healthy fun as an American pastime, and yet I know that it’s important that we can engage in some of these things that make life feel a little more normal, but we still have to be very smart about it,” Governor Whitmer said on Thursday, September 10.
“Masking up is an important part of functioning in the midst of COVID-19 and we know that in workplaces all across the country people are masking up and they’re able to re-engage the economy and stay safe doing that. We can re-engage in some of these other ways but we have to be smart about it, and so there are a number of different companies that are creating masks specifically designed to help athletes stay safe while they are running and blocking and playing football and other sports and so we believe that this is one important way that we resume some football, but we’ve got to do it with these protocols to keep people safe and that’s just really what it’s all about, and same goes for anyone who is in the stands or taking part. We still recognize that the more people that come together, the more people who are projecting their voices, the more inherently risky the conduct is, and that’s why we’re trying to do this and step into it and do it right and hopefully we’ll be successful, but we’re counting on everyone to do their part,” Governor Whitmer said.
The release of Executive Order 2020-176 allowed competition to begin for soccer and volleyball statewide after a couple of weeks in which games could only be played in those sports in Region 6 and Region 8 of the state. Executive Order 2020-176 also prompted the Michigan High School Athletic Association to reverse its decision to postpone football until the spring, moving the sport back to the fall for a shortened 2020 campaign.
As football resumed practices on Tuesday, September 8, coaches wondered about the feasibility of players wearing mouth guards – a traditional piece of football safety equipment attached to the helmet – and masks at the same time. Executive Order 2020-180 did not specifically address the issue.
Eric Tunney, Grayling High School varsity football coach, said the program is getting face shields that can be put into the helmets.
“The face covering and mouth guard is an issue,” Coach Tunney said. “I will never advise any player to play football without a mouthpiece in and we are definitely requiring it. It appears as though a face covering behind the face mask is legal and is a viable option. We are currently looking at acquiring those for now; we will have a temporary solution to the problem. Obviously it is changing daily it seems and we are rolling with the punches. I told the kids we get to play football and will do what we need to do in order to make that happen.”
There is no exception listed for “medical intolerance reasons or medical waivers” in the mask mandate for athletes, according to the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, during Governor Whitmer’s televised update on Thursday, September 10, said athletes who can’t tolerate a mask would likely not be able to participate in sports this fall.
“We understand that wearing a mask makes it less comfortable to participate in a sport. We also understand there’s some data – I would not say that it’s proven – but there is some data that shows things like respiratory rate could potentially increase if you’re wearing a mask while exercising but we do not have any proof that someone can not exercise, and if they can’t, quite frankly, then maybe they won’t be able to participate, unfortunately, at this time, but for contact sports it is recommended given where we are with COVID-19 cases across the state, it is recommended to wear a mask, and if someone is unable to then they may not be able to participate at this time,” Dr. Khaldun said.