Mask mandates lifted for indoor student athletes

Ellen Carrier

In accordance with updated DCSAA guidelines, fully-vaccinated athletes are no longer required to wear a mask when participating in sports. 

 This update was approved by District’s Local Education Agency (LEA) in DCPS’s athletic director meeting on December 8. 

However, student-athletes are permitted to remain unvaccinated if they had a medical or religious exemption approved. According to stipulations in the mandate, unvaccinated students cannot play or practice without masks. 

“Those student-athletes [need to] continue to wear a mask and have to submit a negative COVID test weekly,” Athletic Director Mitch Gore said. In addition to this, coaches are still required to wear masks while coaching practices and games. 

Senior Jahari Miller is a runner on Wilson’s Track Team. Overall, Miller is excited the mandate has been lifted. Prior to the update, the team wore masks every day. “I didn’t think about it [as] a burden,” Miller said, but added that when running, the mask felt “suffocating.”

Wilson’s wrestling coach Archie Hogan echoed this statement, expressing that on the mat, the mask was a health concern. “I am grateful for being able to take the mask off on the mat because it’s a choking hazard,” said Wrestling Coach Archie Hogan.

However, sophomore wrestler Duncan Staddler chooses to keep his mask on during the entire practice. His concern is that if some of his team mates got COVID, their season would be over. “[I keep my mask on] to not get other people sick and so that we can have a season,” said Staddler. 

Softball coach David Thompson says he is excited for his athletes to be able to play without a mask. “I’ll be able to see facial expressions, and I think it’ll be easier for some of our athletes to recover.” Last year, the softball team did not participate in any conditioning like running or cardio as he was concerned with “how well they could recover and how much they could manage.”

 Now with the mask mandate lifted, he believes that his athletes will be able to do more cardio. “It’s just a better, healthier living if you can engage that way,” Thompson said.

The process for implementing these guidelines was initially uncertain, as the LEA’s approval was still required. On Wednesday, December 1, Gore was notified that Wilson could not follow through with this update, as it still required approval from the District’s Local Education Agency (LEA).

Gore was in support of the new rule. “If they are all vaccinated, why continue to have a [mask] requirement?” Gore said.

He reached out to DCPS leadership regarding whose instructions to follow. “Each LEA can choose to follow a guideline or have a more stringent guideline or safety standard,” Gore said. Even if the Department of Health releases a new guideline, Wilson has to wait for their own LEA to approve this new guideline. 

Following the athletic director meeting on December 8, Wilson decided to follow DCIAA’s new guidelines, allowing all fully-vaccinated players at Wilson to practice and play without masks. •