After nine months of mask wearing, most high school athletes in the state finally can breathe easier.
The MIAA on Tuesday morning announced that, effectively immediately, masks are no longer required for athletes on outdoor spring teams. Athletes have been masked up for all competitions and practices since preseason workouts for the fall season began as the MIAA dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wrestlers, if they are competing indoors, and boys volleyball players still have to wear masks. Although the MIAA is allowing participants in “low-risk” indoor sports to ditch the masks, provided there is sufficient social distancing, Duxbury Athletic Director Thom Holdgate, co-chair of the MIAA COVID-19 Task Force, noted that volleyball is a moderate-risk sport, so the rule does not apply.
The MIAA rule change on masks comes on the heels of Monday’s announcement by Gov. Charlie Baker that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in Massachusetts on Memorial Day weekend.
The full news release from the MIAA:
The announcement by Governor Baker and the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) on May 17, 2021 regarding the removal of mandatory masks/facial coverings was reviewed and discussed by the MIAA Sports Medicine Committee (SMC) Monday afternoon. The SMC voted unanimously to recommend the approval of the May 17, 2021 EEA guidelines effective May 18, 2021. This recommendation was forwarded to MIAA President Jeffrey Granatino, MIAA Executive Director Bill Gaine and Task Force Chairs, Thom Holdgate and Dr. Keith Crowley. Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) also reviewed this recommendation. All constituents provided full APPROVAL.
To clarify, this means:
- Athletes on spring teams in active play outdoors are not required to wear a mask/facial covering.
- Athletes when they are on the bench or in a dugout are not required to wear a mask/facial covering.
- Athletes in low-risk sports when indoors where a distance of at least 14 feet or more is consistently maintained between each participant, are not required to wear a mask/facial covering.
- Spectators and chaperones, coaches, staff, referees, umpires and other officials who can social distance while outdoors, are not required to wear a mask/face covering.
- Visitors, spectators, volunteers, and staff while indoors are required to wear mask/facial covering.
- All athletes participating in high school sports are considered youth and fall under youth guidelines.
Additionally, there are no changes to individual MIAA sport modifications other than the mask/facial covering mandate. As restrictions are lifted, a review of the EEA guidelines will continue through the MIAA governance process guided by the MIAA Sports Medicine Committee.
As has been the case throughout the year, the final decision for a school to partake in a particular sport and/or to follow more stringent guidelines belongs at the local level.