By Michael Carman
Olympic Peninsula News Group
Mask wearing will not be required for fall sports athletes in high school sports, according to updated health guidelines released Wednesday by the state Department of Health.
Masks are not required for outdoor sports of any contact level but are recommended in settings where unvaccinated athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and/or support personnel are in close proximity,
Most sports in the fall high school season are held outdoors, such as football, soccer, cross country, tennis, golf and slowpitch softball.
Masks are not required for athletes while competing in low-contact or moderate-contact indoor sports, regardless of vaccination status. This includes fall sports such as tennis and swimming.
Masks are encouraged when practicing indoors, and universal masking — masking for fall, regardless of vaccination status — is required indoors when not practicing or competing, i.e., sitting on the bench.
Due to the typically tight confines of weight rooms and that multiple athletic cohorts use the same weightlifting equipment, masks will be required for all users.
Masking is required universally of all spectators attending indoor sporting events, regardless of vaccination status.
The Department of Health stipulated no masking requirements for fans at outdoor events such as at a Friday night football game or a Tuesday evening soccer match, but local school districts may institute their own requirements or recommendations.
Clallam and Jefferson counties also could institute stricter requirements than those offered by the state.
Universal masking will also be required for all riders in buses traveling to events. Participants should be seated in cohorts that are separated by at least three feet when possible. Ventilation should be increased by opening windows when weather permits.
The Department of Health implemented additional masking and testing requirements for athletes in high-contact indoor sports like basketball and wrestling, including twice-weekly testing for non-vaccinated athletes when those seasons begin in November. Fully vaccinated athletes will not have to pass the twice-weekly screening.
Wrestlers were required to pass COVID tests for competition last spring while basketball avoided the testing requirement.
Schools also have been instructed to begin verifying student and staff vaccinations, so they can take the appropriate steps in the event of exposure.