UPDATE: The state has revised this order and will not require masks to be worn by some athletes. Leaving the article as-is to show that at some point, they thought this was a good idea.
Pennsylvania’s controversial new mask order includes a doubly controversial element that wasn’t discussed when the new rules were announced Tuesday.
Hidden in an FAQ’s section of the state Health Dept.’s coronavirus website is the question of winter sports.
And apparently, the new face mask rules in Pennsylvania require that anyone involved in indoor sports – including the upcoming high school winter sports seasons – wear a face mask. That includes the athletes … while they’re competing in a game, meet or match.
New Face Mask Rules in Pennsylvania Require Athletes to Wear One While Competing
So, in order to follow the rules, high school basketball players must wear a face mask.
Wrestlers, too, must wear a face mask.
And since they don’t seem to be excluded in the Health Dept.’s FAQs, even swimmers must wear face masks … while swimming.
No one is exempt from the rules, per the information released by the Dept. of Health on Tuesday. That includes coaches, athletes and spectators.
Here’s how the state spells it out verbatim:
Does the Order apply to athletes and sports activities?
Indoors: Coaches, athletes (including cheerleaders), and spectators must wear face coverings, when indoors and where another person or persons who are not members of the individual’s household are present in the same space, irrespective of physical distance. This includes while actively engaged in workouts, competition, and on the sidelines, etc.
The rules would apply to any sports activity, be they PIAA or other amateur settings. In the past, pro and major college sports have been exempt from the general rules for coronavirus mitigation.
Winter sports held by the PIAA include:
- Competitive Spirit
- Indoor Track & Field
- Swimming and Diving
PIAA Responds to New Mask Mandate in Pennsylvania
The new mask rules didn’t get by the PIAA on Wednesday. Its Board of Directors met and discussed the new rules.
According to reporting from WHTM-TV’s Allie Berube, the PIAA plans to petition the Governor’s Office on how these new mask rules apply to winter sports. And they’re hoping to get an exemption and prove that wearing a face mask while playing basketball or swimming, as two examples, causes unsafe conditions.
Otherwise, the PIAA is planning to guide local school districts to make their own decisions on athletes wearing masks while competing.
PIAA says it has reached out to the Governor's office on the mask mandate and has received NO response to their questions.
Says that schools will make their own decisions on whether or not to enforce mask mandate.
— Allie Berube (@allieberube) November 18, 2020
Now, prior to the start of the Fall sports season, the PIAA tried working with Governor Tom Wolf on crowd sizes and whether sports should be held at all.
Wolf didn’t want to come across as too dictatorial so close to the election so he deferred to local school districts to make their own decisions. Most schools opted to have Fall sports seasons, albeit shortened seasons in most cases.
The state’s new rules on face masks make no mention of curtailing winter sports. But Wolf did “recommend” that sports not be held at all until January 2021.
And winter sports are held indoors while most Fall sports are held outdoors. Masks were required during Fall sports, but not by athletes actively competing in games or practices. But these, obviously, are not the same rules.
In addition to these new rules for sports, Pennsylvania’s new face mask rules also require people inside homes to wear masks if they’re near someone who’s not a member of the household.
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