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Mask Mandate Creates Confusion for PIAA

Jason Scott

The Pennsylvania Department of Health unveiled stricter mandates for mask wearing as the state contends with rising COVID-19 cases, but whether high school student-athletes will be required to wear them during play remains a question.

The Morning Call reports that Pennsylvania health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said that masks must be worn anytime someone leaves their home. However, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association at its monthly board meeting on Wednesday left the decision on mask wearing to individual schools.

“Each school should make their own individual assessment and determination in deciding whether their teams might fit into an exception,” PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said following the meeting. “Each school has its own health and safety plan, and they know best the condition of each of their individual student-athletes.”

Lombardi noted that the state mask mandate allows for exceptions, including whether wearing one would cause or exacerbate a medical condition. 

“That’s why the board felt these assessments should be done by each school,” Lombardi said. “An exception might be if a mask creates an unsafe condition of an individual athlete. If an athlete has some sort of respiratory condition or activity-induced asthma, you could see some members of one team wear masks and others may not.”

The state is preparing for state football playoffs this weekend, and its winter sports season is scheduled to begin on Dec. 11. The Altoona Mirror reports that game officials will comply with the mask mandate during any competitions they officiate.

Lombardi said that he sought further clarification from the state on the mask requirement, but had not received a response. 

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