HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Legislation has cleared a Pennsylvania House committee that would give schools districts the authority to mandate masks while playing sports in schools.
This legislation would give “exclusive authority” to set masking policies for youth athletes to the schools, recreational clubs and other groups who oversee youth sports. House Bill 1218 is called the Sports Mask Freedom Act.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Eric Davanzo, who serves part of Westmoreland County.
“Our children deserve to enjoy playing sports unencumbered and free from the negative effects masks have while engaging in physical activities,” Davanzo wrote in his memorandum.
Governor Tom Wolf has implemented a statewide mask mandate for schools that already exempts youth athletes from having to wear face coverings during practices or games.
According to the Associated Press, the Republican-controlled committee approved the measure on a party-line vote.
As first reported by abc27 on August 16, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has not implemented a mask mandate or health and safety guidelines in relation to face coverings.
The PIAA’s position is that any changes to policy this fall would not come from the PIAA, but instead from individual school districts to allow the maximum amount of flexibility across the state. For example, the PIAA says it doesn’t want to make a decision for West Perry High School in Perry County based on data from Imhotep Charter High School in Philadelphia.
“We take it very seriously,” said PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz. “Especially after last year, we really understand the importance and the value of interscholastic athletics and all extra curricular activities. These kids of this age group so need it.”
The PIAA is, however, recommending vaccination to all student-athletes, coaches, athletic personnel and officials. This guidance comes from the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
“This decision was put forth after the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) issued their support and recommendation for vaccine eligible individuals involved in interscholastic athletics to get vaccinated,” Mertz said.
This recommendation is in accordance with the CDC and the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations).
The bill on masking in youth sports will now proceed to a floor vote.