New Whitmer order calls for high school athletes to wear protective masks for football, volleyball

A new Executive Order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer calling for high school athletes to wear protective face masks while playing sports where they cannot be socially distanced to limit the coronavirus risk.

Whitmer's office announced Executive Order 2020-180 Wednesday night, saying, "athletes competing in football, soccer, or volleyball, for example, are not able to maintain 6 feet of social distance as required and therefore would need to wear a facial covering."

The order is not required for those swimming or taking part in socially distanced sports like tennis or cross country.

The masks are needed for all training, practice and games, the order states.

“The COVID-19 virus is easily spread through airborne particles and can affect everyone differently. By wearing a face covering when proper distancing is not possible, athletes will be better protected from contracting the virus and spreading it to family members, frontline workers, and vulnerable populations,” said Governor Whitmer. “We cannot afford to let our guard down. As we continue to fight this virus, we need to make smart and informed choices so we can beat COVID-19 together.”  

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said that contact sports pose a high risk of transmitting the coronavirus.

“We are not out of the woods yet, and COVID-19 is still a persistent threat to our frontline workers, students, and families,” said Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health. “Individuals have a choice about whether or not to play organized sports. 

"Since contact sports pose a high risk of transmitting COVID-19, MDHHS recommends that people should choose to avoid them. For those who do choose to play organized sports, we expect you to follow these strict safety measures and wear a face covering to reduce your risk and protect the health of your teammates, coaches, officials, and loved ones.”

According to a state release, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released guidance on organized sports recommending against contact sports at this time. It also cites the elevated risk associated with activities that involve “shouting, singing, or breathing forcefully,” and notes there have been 30 reported outbreaks associated with athletic clubs, teams, or athletic facilities.

MDHHS’ guidance recommends mitigation measures organized sports teams may take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during training, practices, and competitions. These recommendations include frequent hand washing, not letting players share towels, clothing, or other items they use to wipe their faces or hands, ensuring proper cleaning and disinfection of objects and equipment, prioritizing outdoor practice, and more. 

Last week, Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-176 reopening Michigan’s gyms and pools in those regions where they remain closed and allowing for organized sports practices and competitions to resume in those regions where they remain restricted, subject to strict protections meant to limit spread of the virus.

The governor also signed Executive Order 2020-175 outlining strict workplace safety measures gyms and pools must follow to protect people from the spread of COVID-19. 

Read Gov. Whitmer's latest executive order below: