MIAA Rescinds Mask Order for Outdoor Sports; Some Local Districts Still Requiring Face Coverings
UPDATED at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon to include reaction from some local school districts.
FRANKLIN, Mass. -- The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Tuesday morning that it will no longer require student-athletes, coaches, officials or spectators to wear face coverings at outdoor events this spring.
The change, which goes into effect on Tuesday, May 18, brings the state's high school sports in line with changes to youth sports announced on Monday by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.
The MIAA Tuesday morning released a statement saying that the state order to relax its mask mandate was reviewed by the association's Sports Medicine Committee, which unanimously recommended apporoval of the May 17 guidelines from the commonwealth.
The recommendation was reviewed by MIAA President Jeffrey Granatino, MIAA Executive Director Bill Gaine and the chairs of the association's COVID-19 Task Force.
"All constituents provided full approval," the statement reads.
The statement from the MIAA notes that all other sport-specific modifications put in place for the spring season remain in place. And individual schools are free to continue to require masks -- in keeping with Gov. Charlie Baker's statement Monday that individual businesses are free to institute more stringent restrictions than those required by the commonwealth.
At least one Berkshire County school district is staying with its existing face covering guidelines for the time being.
Mount Greylock Athletic Director Lindsey von Holtz Tuesday afternoon circulating an email explaining that nothing has changed on the Williamstown campus as a result of Tuesday's MIAA decision.
Von Holtz cited the existing Mount Greylock Regional School District policy that still is in effect for athletes and spectators:
"A new or freshly laundered face covering that covers the nose and mouth must be worn by all individuals in school buildings, on school grounds, and on school transportation, even when social distancing is observed. Masks must be either multiple-layer fabric face masks, with a tight weave, or paper surgical masks. Masks must fully cover both the nose and mouth. The following are not acceptable masks: bandanas, neck gaiters and buffs, and masks with exhalation valves. Masks will be required for all ages."
Von Holtz said she would notify the athletic directors from schools that will be visiting the Mount Greylock campus if and when the district's School Committee revisits the policy.
Pittsfield Public Schools at 2:30 released a statement saying that the district's current masking policy remains in place:
"The Pittsfield Public Schools current policy states that a face mask that covers the nose and mouth must be worn by all individuals in Pittsfield school buildings, on Pittsfield school grounds, and on Pittsfield school transportation," reads the statement from Pittsfield/Taconic Athletic Director Jim Abel. "This includes students and staff participating in both indoor, and outdoor academic and athletic event programming operated in Pittsfield, as well as visitors and spectators on Pittsfield school grounds. This policy shall remain in place until rescinded by the Pittsfield Public Schools School Committee."
Hoosac Valley Athletic Director Molly Meczywor announced that the Cheshire campus will follow the MIAA guidelines but noted specifically that unmasked spectators need to stay within "their household pod" and socially distance from other spectators. Meczywor said that, for now, the Hoosac Valley district is continuing its limits on the number of spectators who can attend games: four per athlete for baseball, softball and track and five per athlete for lacrosse.
At Lenox, student-athletes will be able to go maskless, in accordance with Tuesday's MIAA announcement, and spectators will need to follow guidance from the commonwealth's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, AD David Pugh said.
Wahconah AD Jared Shannon likewise said the Dalton campus will follow the MIAA and EEA guidance.
But as far as the state rules are concerned, Tuesday's announcement means that, effective immediately, athletes in active play or on a bench or dugout are not required to wear a mask or facial covering -- barring local restrictions.
Likewise, spectators, coaches, referees and staff at events who can social distance while outdoors will not be required to wear masks by the state association.
Visitors, spectators and staff will continue to be required to wear masks indoors during practices or training. But athletes in low-risk sports who can consistently maintain a distance of 14 feet or more will not be required to wear masks, according Tuesday's statement.