The masks are coming off for many high school athletes in North Carolina.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association announced on Twitter on Thursday that masks will be optional for outdoor sports participants, beginning 5 p.m. Friday. This decision includes players and officials actively participating in competition. Coaches and players on the bench who are not actively participating and cannot socially distance should still wear a mask, according to the NCHSAA.
On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that people no longer will be required to wear masks outdoors in North Carolina, part of a new executive order that eases restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
There are still 10 sports ongoing this school year, with just one recognized as an indoor sport. However, wrestling athletes don’t need to wear masks upon entering the mat for a match. They are required to wear masks at all other times and during practice.
The NCHSAA announcement comes out of its annual Board of Directors spring meeting, and the association took action on a variety of items this week.
The NCHSAA also announced it will assume responsibility for paying catastrophic insurance premiums for all sanctioned sports and cheerleading. This has been a point of contention among N.C. legislation in recent months.
“In reviewing goals set by previous Boards along with the Association’s financial position and understanding our member schools’ strained resources due to the pandemic, the Board of Directors made the decision to assume the cost of catastrophic insurance premiums as a benefit of membership,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said in a statement.
The NCHSAA also approved a measure that a fully-vaccinated student-athlete, coach or athletic staff member who has direct exposure does not need to quarantine or test unless they exhibit symptoms.
Reporter Jackson Fuller can be reached at [email protected] or 910-343-2262.