The Pittsburgh Steelers have not been granted an exemption by the Department of Health to the mask mandate requiring athletes to wear face coverings during competition. The order requires athletes, coaches and spectators at all levels to wear masks “including while actively engaged in workouts, competition, and on the sidelines.”
According to Governor Tom Wolf’s spokesperson, Lyndsay Kensinger, the Steelers “were not granted an exemption.” She also reiterated that this was not an order from the Governor, but from the Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
This contradicts a statement on Wednesday from Steelers spokesperson Burt Lauten.
“We have received guidance from the Governor’s Office that our players are exempt from wearing masks during an NFL game,” Lauten said. “All other personnel working at an NFL game are required to wear masks. In addition, we will continue to enforce our protocols that require all fans entering Heinz Field to wear a mask.”
The Frequently Asked Questions for the mandate, as it relates to sports, states “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 guidance continues to say that everyone must wear a face covering “unless they fall under an exception in Section 3 of the Order.”
According to a statement from the Governor’s Office, Section 3 “provides an exception that allows an individual to remove their mask if wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability. The Order indicates all alternatives to wearing a face covering, including the use of a face shield, should be exhausted before an individual is excepted from this Order.”
According to an article from Trib Live, Steelers Lauten clarified that the exemption wasn’t specific to the Steelers organization, but that the players would fall under the Section 3 exemption. The Steelers believe Section 3 would exempt athletes from wearing masks due to “respiratory issues that impede breathing” during athletics.
The Steelers are away Sunday, November 22 against the Jaguars. Pittsburgh’s next home game is Thanksgiving Day against the Ravens.