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After state exempts HS wrestlers from mask requirement, Crook County seeks same for basketball

Crook County, Mtn. View boys basketball game on May 26, 2021
KTVZ file
Crook County, Mtn. View boys basketball game on May 26, 2021

Basketball players still must wear masks, without proof of full vaccination

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Calling for fairness and consistency, Crook County School District leaders have written to state school and athletic officials, asking why high school wrestling was just granted an exemption from requiring masks, regardless of vaccination status, while basketball was not.

In an update sent Friday to superintendents, principals and athletic directors, the Oregon School Activities Association said it had received clarification from the Oregon Health Authority regarding face covering requirements guidance, as it pertains to wrestling.

The OHA said in its latest details for indoor recreation and fitness establishments that "examples of activities where wearing a mask, face covering, face shield is not feasible are swimming, gymnastics, water polo and wrestling," when they are engaged in those activities (though masks are required before and after, on the sidelines).

"OHA indicated this clarification is related to the mask being a potential choking hazard in wrestling," the OSAA guidance said.

That prompted this letter, sent Wednesday by the Crook County school superintendent and school board:

May 26th, 2021

Colt Gill, Director

Oregon Department of Education 255 Capitol St NE

Salem, OR 97310

Peter Weber, Executive Director Oregon Schools Activities Association 25200 SW Parkway Ave Suite 1

Wilsonville, OR 97070

RE: Mask Policy for Indoor Sports

Dear Mr. Gill & Mr. Weber,

Crook County School District appreciates the excellent working relationship we’ve had this year with the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Schools Activities Association, and the Governor’s Office. We are grateful for the flexibility OSAA has demonstrated in recognizing the safety and well-being of athletes. On Friday, May 21st, just 30 minutes before Crook County High School hosted a wresting event, OSAA announced a last-minute change to the state’s mask policy and wrestlers were no longer required to wear masks during practices or competitions. OSAA deemed wearing a mask a “choking hazard” and relaxed the mask requirement.

We agree with this decision and applaud OSAA for its leadership. We believe that a similar analysis should be applied to basketball, where the close contact and exposure is less significant than contact through wrestling. Basketball requires constant and vigorous exercise with frequent physical interactions. Crook County student athletes and parents have expressed significant concern to the Crook County School board and superintendent about the safety of playing with masks. Students are in the process of getting vaccinated and soon many of them will have immunity. Given the high level of COVID immunity that comes with just a first-dose of COVID vaccination and the benefits of herd immunity, our District believes we can allow our students to safely practice and play basketball without masks for the remainder of the school year.

Our school district began serving students in a hybrid model in September, and all students returned in- person by January. Thanks to our partnership with the Crook County Health Department and the work of our school nurses, principals, teachers, staff, parents, and coaches we’ve successfully managed COVID in our buildings. We’ve kept cases to a minimum, avoided outbreaks, and successfully held several sports seasons without any major hiccups. We are proud of our community for pulling together and making the 2020-21 school year a resounding success despite the challenges of the pandemic.

We strongly urge OHA, ODE, and the OSAA to reconsider the necessity of the mask ban for basketball in light of lifting the ban for wrestling. The safety of our children is everything, but COVID is not the only health concern and safety risk facing our children. We invite you to balance risks between COVID transmission and a mask police which seems, at least in the case of wrestling, to not be viewed as an essential protection.  

Thank you for the consideration,

Crook County School Board Members:

  • Scott Cooper, Chair
  • Patti Norris, Vice Chair
  • Doug Smith
  • Gwen Carr
Article Topic Follows: Crook County

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