Colorado High School Activities Association directives behind basketball mask requirement
The Garfield County District Re-2 school board was met with several public comments Monday regarding how the district will move forward with winter sports safety rules.
“My son is in seventh grade, and this would’ve been his first year to have an opportunity to play basketball for his school,” Andrea Murr stated in a letter sent to the school board. “He was excited to do so. However, as soon as he heard he would have to wear a mask, he said he would not play.”
With the first games of “Season B sports” — ice hockey, girls and boys basketball, competitive cheer, wrestling and girls swimming — slated for Jan. 25, some athletes will be required to wear masks during game play. In addition, the games themselves will be limited to 50 spectators, 24 team participants and essential personnel, which includes coaches, referees and scorekeepers, among others.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there are a few exemptions to the mask rule during games and matches, but basketball is not among them.
“… we will only exempt athletes from the statewide indoor mask order when they are actively involved in wrestling, spirit, and aquatics, and masks remain required when they are not actively participating, for example when the athlete is between events,” the CDPHE stated in the letter, which regarded the approval of a statewide variance to allow live sports.
Re-2 officials confirmed on Monday the upcoming COVID-19 rules they aim to follow during live game play is in fact being implemented by the Colorado High School Activities Association, which is under the direction of the CDPHE. The regulations also follow Garfield County’s level orange dial metric.
Another comment questioned whether wearing a mask during vigorous exercise is a safe practice, stating that Garfield County commissioners, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization advise against it.
“It is child abuse,” Sherronna Bishop said over a video communications broadcast of the meeting. “They know we shouldn’t be doing it, they know it’s dangerous.”
During discussion, Re-2 board member Katie Mackley said that if the district does not in fact follows the COVID-19 guidelines, it could be problematic.
“If we choose to not follow these guidelines, no one will come play us,” she said.
CHSAA does have the power to penalize any individual or team under its jurisdiction if they’re caught not following the rules put in place. Director of facilities John Oldham said this could include barring a team from participating in postseason play.
“Therefore, we have to follow the rules of CHSSA or we are not allowed to participate in sports,” board member Tom Slappey said.
Mackley encouraged parents to take their energies to the CDPHE to try and lobby for looser restrictions. She used the NCAA as an example, saying they test their players for COVID-19 on a regular basis.
Until restrictions are loosened, the general consensus is to follow the rules to avoid being penalized.
“If we really put our children at the base of this debate and we use common sense, it would tell me that in order to get any stability to our children that we can, that we mask up and we play,” board member Meryia Stickler said. “Do I like it? No. But I want our children to have as much opportunity for stability of their normal activities as we can possibly give them.”
“If we can find a way to keep our spectators, plus our participants safe, we can find a way to make this work,” he said. “ … I’m not asking people to like it, I’m not asking people to understand it … and instead of working against us, work with us.”
District Re-2 is now in the process of developing fan protocols for live games, said Oldham.
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Garfield County counted five new deaths attributed to COVID-19 over the past six weeks, even as the county’s vaccination rate continues to go up.