Governor Ralph Northam recently released a new mask mandate for events, including high school sports, effective May 15.
People who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks outdoors “when alone or in small gatherings,” the statement from the Governor’s office said.
However, the original mandate still applies to indoor events, requiring everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear masks indoors. The limits on social gatherings were increased to 100 people indoors and 250 outdoors. Outdoor sporting events can now raise spectator limits 50% from the previous amount, this would allow for a limit of 250 people indoors and 1,000 for outdoors. Lastly, public venues can now increase capacity from 30% to 50% as well.
The new mandate not only affects social gatherings, but will also affect spring sporting practices and events.
For freshman Idaly Alvarez and the softball team, they have been required to wear masks during games, but not as strictly during practice.
“The rule [previously on the softball team] has been [that] we have to wear our masks during games, when we’re in the dugout or in a huddle, but when we’re on the field or batting we don’t have to wear them. During practice we don’t really wear them,” Alvarez said.
Similar to Alvarez, sophomore Braeden McGrath and the boys soccer team are required to wear their mask when close to others.
“Our rule initially was masked at all times and we just spread out when we needed a breather. It then changed to masks on whenever you aren’t playing, and since that’s fairly easy to do we’ve followed that 100% of the time,” McGrath said.
Like other sports, junior Kate Kirwan has had to wear a mask at all times when running.
“The previous rule has been that we have to wear our masks all the time at practice unless we were racing. Mostly all the runners have followed this rule, I’ve only seen a couple refuse to wear them at practice, but they put them back on after the coaches asked them to,” Kirwan said.
Likewise, senior Ryan Muncy is not required to wear his mask during games and feels that the team has done a good job of wearing them when asked to.
“The rules previously [for] the baseball team with mask wearing have been that we are to wear our masks when we are in close proximity to each other or indoors. We’ve done a good job as a team of following this to ensure we can play this season without interruptions. During games we aren’t required to wear masks, but some players still do,” Muncy said.
Although the mask mandate will affect each of the spring sports, Alvarez is excited to have the chance to play with less restrictions.
“I feel like it’s good that we wear masks to keep each other safe from this whole pandemic, but it’s also annoying because it gets hot really quick and sometimes it’s hard to breathe in them [so I’m excited to have less restrictions]. When we’re [practicing] inside we wear them, and I’m okay with it,” Alvarez said.
For McGrath, he does not expect the new mandate to affect sports very much.
“I have no problems with the new mandate, it seems to me that’s how it should be. I can’t say I see it having much of an effect on the games or the game as a whole,” McGrath said.
Kirwan feels good about the new mandate due to the amount of people getting vaccinated. She still emphasizes the importance of safety and wearing masks at practices due to the amount of people.
“With more people getting vaccinated I feel pretty good about the new rule. As long as we are following CDC guidelines, I think it is time to start easing back into a sense of normalcy. However, I still think we will wear masks while practicing because it’s considered a crowded event. It will be nice to feel better about not wearing masks while racing now that the CDC has come out and said it is okay for vaccinated people. I don’t have many concerns just because the risk of COVID is so low outside in open air, but I think we should still be cautious until at least 75% of the population is vaccinated,” Kirwan said.
Muncy sees the mandate affecting baseball practices more than games. He knows that many of his teammates are vaccinated, therefore will not be required to wear their masks unless close to others.
“It will change our practices more than our games. A good number of players on our team are fully vaccinated, so it will be nice having some looser restrictions at practice. We aren’t required to wear masks at games so not much will change with that due to the mandate,” Muncy said.