WESTFIELD – Area students are heading back to practice for the winter high school sports season, but with rising COVID cases – – some of the largest numbers seen since the height of the pandemic – – masks are making a return.
According to a statement recently issued by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, masks will be required for student-athletes, coaches and officials for any indoor sport.
These guidelines are consistent with those issued by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and set forth by the commissioner of education. They are the minimum requirements similar to those that remain in place in classrooms all throughout the state.
While some off-campus facilities and venues may not require masks for site-related activities, the MIAA is urging players, coaches, and school-related personnel to treat practices and competitions as school events and adhere to the guideline.
The MIAA is also asking all participants to “be respectful to the policies and expectations set forth in school districts and local communities and continue the practice of communication with member schools that may or may not have reached the 80 percent vaccination threshold.”
DESE will reassess the masking guidelines on Jan. 15.
“Throughout work with state officials, and monitoring vaccination rates and COVID rates, we will take into consideration MIAA committee votes and push for a transition to un-masking during athletic completion within the winter season,” MIAA Executive Director Bob Baldwin said.
Athletes, students, coaches, fans, and officials were required to wear masks for most indoor sports this past fall season.
Practice for the winter sports season begins Monday.