Answering 5 questions about Washington’s face-covering mandate in WIAA’s return to sports

The good news is that there appears a clearer path to a return to WIAA sports in 2020-21.

The bad news? More laundry might be part of it.

One of the Washington State Department of Health’s mandates in the return of high school athletics is that student-athletes will be required to wear face coverings during practices and competition.

Here are SBLive Washington’s answers to five pertinent questions surrounding that mandate:

1. WHAT WIAA SPORTS WILL THE FACE-COVERING MANDATE BE APPLIED TO?

Let’s start with all the biggies – baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, volleyball, wrestling and track and field.

All student-athletes in those sports will be required to wear face coverings full-time.

Right now, the only WIAA sport that doesn’t need to follow the mandate is swimming and diving (although discussion is still underway about golf, singles tennis and cross country, all low-risk sports).

2. WHAT OTHER STATES ARE FOLLOWING THIS MANDATE?

In the past couple of months, more states have decided to go this route, including Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Last September, under the directive of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan became the first state to issue a face-covering mandate for football – which finishes up its state championships this weekend.

Delaware also followed suit, playing its entire 2020 football season wearing a mask.

Now, Washington becomes the third state to follow that order for football.

3. WHAT TYPE OF FACE COVERINGS ARE ACCEPTABLE FOR SPORTS?

The WIAA requires that all face coverings be made of cloth.

That is a generic term with no real definition, but the DOH recommends a few fabrics – cotton, fleece or linen.

The face covering has to have a fastening mechanism, preferably ties or an elastic strap that can go around an athlete’s head or behind his/her ears.

Gaiters are also acceptable, but not the recommended mask.

4. HOW WILL FACE COVERINGS WORK IN FOOTBALL?

Like in all sports, student-athletes will need to wear a cloth mask that covers their mouth and nose.

That might be a difficult task in football, given that players are also required to wear a mouth guard during games.

Exterior plastic face shields or splash guards can also be attached to the facemask, but they cannot be the sole source of face covering.

5. WHOSE JOB IS IT TO ENFORCE THIS MANDATE?

As WIAA executive board president Tim Thomsen explains – enforcement of the face-covering rule, especially during games, has to be done collectively.

For example, it won’t be up to a game referee to do a mask count before and after each play (although the action can be delayed at his or her discretion).

Coaches, athletic administrators, site managers – and the players themselves – will need to keep this mandate in check if they want a season to continue.

Thank you for joining the discussion on SBLive!

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