OHA adopts ‘common sense’ change to mask mandate for outdoor non-contact sports

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) revised its guidelines Monday regarding mask wearing for athletes participating in outdoor non-contact sports, allowing individuals to remove their masks during competition when they are at least six feet from other competitors.

The move comes five days after Summit junior Magdalene Williams collapsed at the finish line while running the third-fastest girls 800 meters in state history. The outcry following her collapse included Oregonian columnist John Canzano calling upon state officials to rescind the mask mandate.

“I appreciate the OHA listening to common sense,” said long-time Jesuit track and field coach Tom Rothenberger. “It recognizes the science. It recognizes the risk is low. No track race is going to put someone in close contact for that long.”

The new guidelines apply to sports such as tennis, swimming, cross country, track and field, and sideline/no-contact cheer and dance, although the OHA did not limit the rule to just those sports. Baseball, softball and golf could fall under the same rule, which states:

Statewide, masks, face coverings or face shields are required to be worn by all individuals at all times unless the individual … is outdoors, competing in a non-contact sport and is at least six (6) feet of distance from individuals outside of their household.

For track races, this could involve runners lowering their masks upon the starter’s command, “On your marks!” and then raising them back in place after crossing the finish line.

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