Face mask ‘gray area,’ county restrictions cause schools to cancel workouts

Thursday, July 2, 2020 | 6:59 PM

Must high school athletes wear face masks during workouts?

Masks weren’t required earlier in the week, but some coaches and school administrators aren’t so sure after Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration made wearing them mandatory “when outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet from individuals who are not members of their households.”

That describes the workouts taking place daily on high school campuses around the PIAA.

Currently, most schools require the students to wear masks only during breaks or when entering and exiting the facility. Does that need to change?

“It’s definitely a gray area,” Quaker Valley athletic director Mike Mastroianni said. “We had our coaches wearing masks and the kids not — until this came out.”

Many of Quaker Valley’s sports teams were scheduled to hold their first workouts Thursday, but in response to the new mask requirement, school administrators postponed all workouts until July 13. Mastroianni was optimistic that a clarification would soon come from the governor’s office or the PIAA.

“We just felt that we needed to get better direction,” Mastroianni said.

PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the PIAA also is awaiting clarification.

In a radio interview Thursday on KDKA-AM, state Health Secretary Rachel Levine was asked how the mandate applies to youth sports.

“Young people, if they’re going to be within 6 feet of each other, should be wearing masks,” Levine said. “We want to protect our young people.”

Additionally, a number of schools announced Thursday they will canceled all workouts through next week in response to new regulations put in place by the Allegheny County Health Department.

After Allegheny County reported 233 new coronavirus cases Thursday, Health Department director Dr. Debra Bogen banned gatherings of more than 25 people during the next week.

Sporting events were included in those restrictions.

In a statement on the school’s website, Mt. Lebanon administrators said: “Effective immediately and due to the increase in COVID cases in the county, we are suspending all athletic practices … as a result of the order issued by the Allegheny County Health Department today. We made this decision out of an abundance of caution to maintain a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff and to assist in the mitigation efforts.”

Baldwin, Bethel Park, Central Catholic and North Allegheny were among the first to announced on Twitter that activities were canceled next week.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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