Rule change applies to athletes but not coaches, officials, spectators

Youth athletes in outdoor sports are no longer required to wear face coverings while competing or practicing, according to guidance issued by the Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday.

Since youth sports returned from a state-imposed pause Jan. 4, athletes in most sports have been required to wear masks in competition. Exceptions were made for swimming, skiing and gymnastics. The mask requirement carried over to spring sports, whether outdoor or indoor.

Now masks are optional for athletes in outdoor sports provided they are “actively practicing or playing,” according to a news release from the MDH. The Minnesota State High School League last week asked the state for permission to make that change.

The change takes effect immediately.

The mask requirement remains in effect for athletes in indoor sports. Athletes in outdoor sports can’t just throw them away, however. They’re still expected to wear masks if they’re in a dugout or on the sideline and can’t follow social distancing guidelines.

Coaches, officials and spectators still will be required to wear masks at all times.

The MDH recommends athletes be tested for COVID-19 every week; students not in athletics are being asked to test every two weeks. According to the MDH, the state will provide free saliva test kits for middle schools, high schools and organized sports teams.

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