Connecticut Governor: Mask Mandate for Hockey, Hoops

Paul Steinbach Headshot

High school athletes in Connecticut will be required to wear masks while playing basketball, hockey and other medium-risk sports under new sports sector rules announced by Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday.

As reported by the Hartford Courant, the mask mandate does not apply to college or professional teams, and is largely focused on grades K through 12.

Additionally, high-risk sports for those age groups — including wrestling, 11-on-11 football and boys' lacrosse — will not be allowed to play games for the rest of 2020. Those teams can still practice and condition together. In regards to independent and private full-contact football leagues that emerged in the wake of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference canceling football, Lamont said the new rule would likely eliminate them.

Masks are required for all indoor medium-risk sports, but not those played outdoors. Health experts from across the state are in favor of athletes wearing masks while competing, and not just while on the sidelines or the bench.

“Wearing a mask should not be recommended, it should be mandatory, it should be mandated,” said Dr. Karl Minges, assistant professor and chair of the department of health administration and policy at the University of New Haven. "Especially if they’re doing the sports indoors. It should have been, frankly, the case for the fall as well. I know people didn’t have to put on their masks until they sat on the sidelines.

Additionally, Connecticut teams will not be allowed to travel to other states for sporting events, or host teams from other states. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has already barred member schools from participating in interstate play.

“We need a little time to look at it with our sports medicine doctors,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said Thursday afternoon. “If we have any clarifying questions, we can reach out to DPH.”

The rules go into effect Monday, though the state recommends athletes adhere to them over the weekend.

“We’re doing that in association with Rhode Island, who’s doing this, and Massachusetts doing this,” said Lamont. “We’re finding that the kids have been able to make [wearing masks] work OK. ... This is really focused on K-12, doing everything we can to allow them to play sports safely."

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