GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A patchwork of coronavirus requirements and recommendations is causing challenges for districts as high school sports practices are underway.
Mark Uyl, the executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, said the organization is working to keep districts informed.
“Going back to last August, we’ve given approximately 50-plus bulletins to our schools with updates,” Uyl said.
There are no statewide requirements right now for youth sports, so COVID-19 protocols change depending on the county or school district.
“I think the approach that they’re currently taking, leaving it to district by district, is causing an awful lot of confusion, I think it’s causing a lot of heartburn and it’s really putting local school districts on the hot seat in having to manage these decisions regarding face masks,” Uyl said.
Uyl said away teams will follow the home team’s rules when it comes to mask requirements.
“If the whole school is requiring face masks for everyone, then that’s what’s going to happen and that visiting school has the option of, ‘Well, if that’s the mask policy, we don’t want to play, then we’ll simply reschedule or we’ll choose not to play this year,'” Uyl said.
Rules for spectators and players vary but the MHSAA is seeing some consistency of when and where face masks are most likely being used.
“We know a lot of districts are requiring face masks indoors, which in an athletic setting means spectators have to wear one, (as well as) coaches and athletes not currently in the game,” Uyl said.
Dr. Rosemary Olivero, a pediatric infectious disease expert with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, said the risk is not the same for all sports.
“Those athletics that are being played outdoors and where there’s more space, the risk is significantly lower than if you’re talking about a close physical contact indoor sport — so wrestling and basketball were the ones that were demonstrated to have the highest risk of passing it on between teammates,” Olivero said.
The MHSAA says data from last school year starting in January showed positive test percentages kept under 1% and under 2% for wrestling.
“We fully believe that not only can we play but we can continue to play safely,” Uyl said.