Mid-Penn Conference athletic directors voted Wednesday morning to require winter sports athletes to wear masks at all times when practicing or competing. The new universal mask rules do not apply to swimmers when in the pool.
All 31 schools playing within the Mid-Penn for winter sports will be required to follow the universal mask rules. Athletic directors also approved the limitation of fans at all contests to fans from the home team school only. Teams will also be asked to reduce roster sizes for games in which they are the visiting team.
On Nov. 17, the Department of Health released a renewed mask mandate, requiring everyone to wear masks indoors whenever individuals from more than one family are present. The PIAA Board has urged schools to add mask language to their health and safety guidelines, while also advising schools to contact their solicitors to determine whether the school qualifies for an exemption to the DOH mask mandate.
The Department of Health addressed sports in its Frequently Asked Questions portion of the DOH website:
Does the Order apply to athletes and sports activities?
Yes. Everyone who participates in sport activities including coaches, athletes (including cheerleaders), and spectators must wear a face covering, such as a mask, unless they fall under an exception in Section 3 of the Order.
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.
Outdoors: Coaches, athletes (including cheerleaders), and spectators must wear face coverings if they cannot maintain sustained physical distance from persons outside of their household. This includes while actively engaged in workouts, competition, and on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. If sustained six-foot distancing can be maintained, face coverings may be removed when outdoors.
The PIAA expressed its concerns for athletes wearing masks in sports such as swimming, citing concerns of students getting enough oxygen when coming up out of the water between strokes. The group also has concerns for wrestling, in that an athlete could cause injury to his/her opponent by pulling the mask side to side.
On Nov. 17 the Mid-Penn voted to delay the start of competition by one week to December 18th. Schools will be allowed to play conference and non-conference opponents. Basketball and wrestling teams will be capped at 18 games this season. There will be no Mid-Penn Conference swim meet or basketball championship this 2020-21 season.
PIAA winter sports are basketball, bowling, competitive spirit, gymnastics, indoor track & field, rifle, swimming & diving, and wrestling.
The schools that fall under the Mid-Penn Conference are Altoona, Big Spring, Bishop McDevitt, Boiling Springs, Camp Hill, Carlisle, Cedar Cliff, Central Dauphin, Central Dauphin East, Chambersburg, Cumberland Valley, East Pennsboro, Greencastle-Antrim, Harrisburg, Hershey, James Buchanan, Lower Dauphin, Mechanicsburg, Middletown, Mifflin County, Milton Hershey, Northern, Palmyra, Red Land, Shippensburg, State College, Steel-High, Susquehanna Township, Trinity, Waynesboro and West Perry.
The Mid-Penn Conference was formed in 1982, and is the largest conference in District III.