Many athletes around the state can compete mostly maskless during the upcoming school year, according to updated state guidelines.
However, athletes in Snohomish County are currently required to wear masks indoors because of the county's more restrictive mask directive. Thurston, Clallam and Jefferson counties have since enacted similar county-level indoor masking directives.
The Washington State Department of Health on Wednesday, Aug. 11, released a 19-page list of requirements for the upcoming school year, including for participation in athletics.
In outdoor sports, all athletes, coaches, spectators and game staff will not be required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. However, health officials urge masks when unvaccinated players and coaches are in groups, such as in huddles, on the sideline or in dugouts.
Per the new state rules, for low- and moderate-contact indoor sports — volleyball and swim and dive — masks are not required for athletes. For high-contact indoor sports — basketball and wrestling — athletes don't need masks while playing if they’re vaccinated or agree to participate in COVID-19 screening testing, which is done at least twice weekly. Unvaccinated athletes in high-contact indoor sports who choose not to participate in testing will be required to wear face coverings.
However, as of Thursday, Aug. 12, everyone age 5 and older in Snohomish County must wear a face covering in indoor public spaces, including athletes, according to new guidelines from Snohomish Health District's Dr. Chris Spitters.
The county's directive takes precedence over the state rules and applies to high school athletes competing indoors, according to the health district. A county-level directive can’t be less restrictive than state guidance; it can be more restrictive, health officials said.
“It’s disappointing, but we have to follow the guidelines,” Stanwood High athletic director Tom Wilfong said.
For the fall sports season, the indoor masking requirements mostly effects volleyball and girls swimming.
The county’s masking directive applies to indoor spaces that are open to the public, including retail, grocery stores, government buildings, and other businesses and places where members of the public can enter freely. It does not apply to indoor non-public spaces, including businesses, offices and other places of employment with limited access.
According to the state’s masking guidelines, all spectators, coaches, athletic trainers and support personnel must wear masks at indoor events, regardless of vaccination status. Spectators must be seated in “family units” and those small groups should be spaced at least 3 feet apart.
Per the state rules, masking is required while not actively participating in games or at practice for all indoor sports. Masks will be required for everyone in weight rooms.