The State of California has been one of the most restrictive when it comes to regulations in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Since mid-summer, masks have been required to be worn indoors in virtually every type of business and activity.
In following these California Department of Public Health (CDPH) directives, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has instructed all its member schools to mandate the wearing of masks by the participants of indoor sports.
“We’ve been getting reports from coaches who had their players wearing masks visiting school where those players aren’t,” Will DeBoard, assistant commissioner of the Sac-Joaquin Section, told the Herald recently. “We have made it clear that when it comes to the playoffs, which we run, all players, coaches and fans will be wearing masks.”
This is, of course, going to be the situation as long as the current mask mandates remain in place, as directed by the CDPH.
“Students are required to wear masks indoors in school settings and on school-based transportation,” the CDPH wrote in a Sept. 22 directive in reopening public schools for this fall. “This includes weight rooms, locker rooms, and school buses, even if the sport itself is played outdoors.”
And, of course, CDPH and CIF can hand down rules, but local schools are the ones that find themselves in charge of enforcement.
Trying to oversee these mask mandates at each sports site can cause problems. As DeBoard’s statement indicated, some schools haven’t enforced the state guidelines.
“The inconsistency from school to school is frustrating,” Liberty Ranch High School Principal Joe Saramago told the Herald. “Then they come to our school and we are the ‘bad guy’ for trying to enforce it. Everyone that walks in knows the rules, and we expect them to follow them.”
Saramago said that, for the most part, most spectators have been “pretty cooperative.” And, although athletes have some “reluctance”, Saramago said most athletes have seen the masks as a “temporary inconvenience.”
And if they don’t comply?
In a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section memo dated Oct. 12, Commissioner Michael Garrison said that if a team does not comply with the directive, “the opponent may file a protest of the contest.”
In addition, Garrison said that schools refusing to comply with the CDPH mask requirement “may be removed from the playoff tournament.”
The memo defines noncompliance as wearing the mask below the nose and mouth or under the chin.
DeBoard says masks will be required for all basketball players, but when it comes to wrestling, masks can be a choke hazard in the midst of competition.
“Wrestlers will have to do weekly (COVID-19) testing,” DeBoard said.
All of these COVID-19 precautions may be changing at the end of this month.
“CDPH will continue to assess conditions on an ongoing basis and will determine, no later than Nov. 1, 2021, whether to update mask requirements or recommendations,” they wrote in the Sept. 22 directive.
That may be good news for the indoor winter sports, basketball and wrestling. Practices for both sports begin Nov. 1.
Galt Herald Managing Editor Bonnie Rodriguez contributed to this article.