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MDHHS issues guidance to athletes: Mask up. Without masks, COVID tests must be done regularly

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Posted at 8:10 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 20:10:17-05

LANSING — Sports have been allowed to resume in Michigan and the state health department has released interim guidelines for athletes.

Contact sports at Michigan high schools resumed Monday following announcement of the reinstatement last week. Subsequently, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued Interim Guidance for Athletics to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The order requires masks to be worn during practices and competitions. If masks can't be worn, student-athletes must be regularly COVID tested.

“Safety protocols like wearing masks and testing will help keep kids, coaches and families safe and allow our schools to remain open for in-person instruction,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “We also continue to urge hand washing, using separate equipment as much as possible, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting any shared equipment and surfaces.”

Participants are also reminded to maintain six feet of distance when they aren't actively playing while wearing a face mask. MDHHS says for sports that won't allow athletes to wear masks, athletes must be regularly tested. The sports organizers are asked to administer a testing program even if it isn't required.

Only 250 spectators are allowed in stadiums that seat less than 10,000 and up to 500 people at venues that seat over 10,000 people. Athletes are asked to have no more than two invited guests at games.

Additional recommendations included in the MDHHS guidance include:

  • Wash hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Do not share items that are difficult to clean, sanitize or disinfect. Use separate towels, clothing or other items used to wipe faces or hands.
  • Individuals should use their own gear/equipment and minimize sharing equipment.
  • Individuals are encouraged to provide their own food, drinks and/or water.
  • If a mask is removed during a break, participants must remain at least six feet apart from others.
  • Refrain from pre- or post-event handshakes, hugs, fist bumps, high fives or contact celebrations.
  • Ensure enough time between events or practices to allow for proper cleaning and disinfection of the facilities and shared equipment.
  • Prioritize outdoor, as opposed to indoor, practice and play as much as possible.
  • If playing inside, ensure ventilation systems or fans operate properly. Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors.
  • Areas with poor ventilation (weight rooms, small spaces) where social distancing cannot be implemented should be avoided.
  • In practices, prioritize noncontact activity, like conditioning and drills, where social distancing can be maintained. Small groups may help reduce the risk of teamwide COVID-19 outbreaks as they allow for greater social distancing, easier contact tracing, and reducing the number of athletes that need to be quarantined.
  • Minimize travel to other communities and regions for practices and competition.
  • Limit the use of carpools, buses or other shared transportation between persons outside the same household. When riding in an automobile to a sports event, encourage players to ride to the sports event with persons living in their same household, and always wear a mask if traveling with persons outside the same household.