Mask wearing will not be required for fall sports competitors in high school sports, according to updated health guidelines released Wednesday by the Washington State Department of Health.
Masks are not required for outdoor sports of any contact level, but are recommended in settings where unvaccinated athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and/or support personnel are in close proximity, such as standing on the sidelines, in a huddle or sitting in a dugout.
Most sports in the fall high school season are held outdoors, such as football, soccer, cross country, tennis, golf and slowpitch softball.
Masks are not required for athletes while competing in low-contact or moderate-contact indoor sports, regardless of vaccination status. In the fall, these sports would include volleyball and swimming in most settings.
Masks are encouraged when practicing indoors, and universal masking — masking for fall, regardless of vaccination status — is required indoors when not practicing or competing, i.e. sitting on the bench.
Masking is required universally of all spectators attending indoor sporting events, regardless of vaccination status. Fans should be seated in “family units” and those small groups should be spaced at least three feet apart.
The department of health stipulated no masking requirements for fans at outdoor events, but local school districts may institute their own requirements or recommendations.
Universal masking will also be required for all riders in buses traveling to events. Participants should be seated in cohorts that are separated by at three feet when possible. Ventilation should be increased by opening windows when weather permits.
The department of health had additional masking and testing requirements for athletes in high-contact indoor sports like basketball and wrestling. But those sports do not begin their high school seasons until late November.
Schools have been instructed to begin verifying student and staff vaccinations, so they can take the appropriate steps in the event of exposure.
Fully vaccinated athletes and staff identified as close contacts to an exposure should be tested three to five days following a known exposure to someone suspected or confirmed COVID-19 positive and wear a mask for 14 days or until they receive a negative test.
Unvaccinated athletes and staff identified as close contacts should quarantine immediately.