The Virginia High School League announced Monday morning that it will not require athletes to wear masks in games and practices.
On Dec. 10, the VHSL announced that athletes had to wear masks after Gov. Ralph Northam issued new COVID-19 restrictions, including stricter mask-wearing rules, earlier that day.
“VHSL apologizes for any confusion created by its original release,” said VHSL Executive Director, Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun. “We ask the public to understand that it is the first mission of VHSL to make sure that athletics are conducted in a safe and healthy environment, and it was that desire that motivated the original decision.”
It remains up to each school division whether masks are required for practice and games or not. Prince William County Public Schools will continue to require the mask wearing for practices and games until schools are told otherwise.
The VHSL rescinded the requirement so it complies with Northam’s new mask-wearing mandate that face covering requirements “do not apply to … individuals exercising or using exercise equipment.”
“Once we knew that [Executive Order] 72 did not apply to individuals exercising and that a mask mandate was not enforceable in the Governor’s order we immediately made the decision to not make masks a requirement,” said VHSL spokesperson Mike McCall. “The clarification occurred over the weekend. Obviously, safety is our priority and we want to get this right.”
In its release Monday, the VHSL said face masks are “strongly encouraged’, but not required. Each school may continue to exercise its discretion and judgment as to safety steps within its athletics programs as it pertains to face coverings.”