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DOH: Masks not required for outdoor sports this fall

The fall preps preseason is just around the corner, and as teams gather to get ready for what will hopefully be a full season of action, the state has released its COVID-19 guidance for athletics.

The good news is that guidelines are far more relaxed for many sports, especially outdoor ones, than they were in February, when last year’s shortened high school sports season began.

Football, soccer and cross country coaches can breathe a sigh of relief as masks will not be required for outdoor sports. However, they are recommended in settings where unvaccinated athletes, coaches, trainers and other personnel are in close proximity, such as on the sideline or in a huddle.

Masks are also not required for athletes competing in low- or moderate-contact indoor sports, regardless of vaccination status. Masking will be required for athletes who are not actively practicing or competing, and are encouraged during indoor practices.

Masks will also be required for all spectators for indoor sports regardless of vaccination status. Fans should be seated in “units” with at least 3 feet of space in between.

“The mask will be required in by everybody weight rooms regardless of their vaccination status,” says WIAA assistant executive director Justin Kesterson in the organization’s latest video update.

Restrictions remain more stringent for high-contact indoor sports — basketball, water polo and wrestling — however, masks are not required for athletes who are fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated athletes in high-contact indoor sports will have to participate in screen testing, which must be performed twice weekly using either a molecular or antigen test. Rapid antigen tests should be performed on unvaccinated athletes within 24 hours of competition. For multi-day events, testing should happen before each competition. If the test is molecular, the athlete will not have to isolate while awaiting results unless showing symptoms.

Screen testing for unvaccinated athletes in low- or moderate-contact indoor sports is recommended, but not required.

When athletes test positive, they, along with any other athlete, coach or trainer who is unvaccinated, should quarantine immediately, even if they have had a negative test recently. Those who are fully vaccinated should get tested within three to five days of a known exposure to someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID and wear a mask for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

For details go to the Department of Health website here.

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