PIAA proceeds with winter sports, leaves mask mandate up to individual schools

Sports

The PIAA Board has greenlit the start of winter sports practice for Friday, November 20th with first games allowed to begin on December 11th, as originally scheduled.

When asked if the PIAA has concerns beginning winter sports, which are all indoor sports, as the state sees its highest number of COVID-19 cases, PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi relayed confidence in its health and safety guidelines.

“The PIAA is not aware of any team to team, or school to school spread of the virus,” Lombardi said.

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 released on Tuesday.

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.

The PIAA has reached out to the Governor’s office for clarification on the mandate, particularly as it pertains to wrestling and swimming, but says it has not received any response.

While athletes will be required or not required to wear masks based on individual school policies, PIAA Officials will be required to wear masks per the state mandate starting this weekend’s fall championships.Additional notes from the meeting:

Additional notes from the meeting

  • Swimming & diving, competitive spirit, gymnastics will all be allowed to host virtual meets where schools compete in their own facilities and swap scores and times over an internet program
  • Wrestling adopts additional safety guidelines, you can see those here
  • PIAA will rewrite rules on number of practices needed to resume competitions after a temporary shutdown
  • PIAA expects to reduce number of qualifiers for basketball, swim & dive and wrestling by end of winter season

Next PIAA Board Meeting is scheduled for December 9th, just two days before the anticipated start date for winter sports competitions across the state.

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