Spring Sports Cleared By the Minnesota Department of Health for Maskless Season

Girls track runners compete maskless in the spring 2021 season.

Sophia Salmon

Girls’ track runners compete maskless in the spring 2021 season.

Anna Podein, Staff Writer

On April 22, 2021, the Minnesota Department of Health updated mask guidelines for spring sports, stating that masks were no longer required to be worn by players during competition, whether it be a game or practice. The decision comes after the MSHSL asked the Minnesota Department of Health to make these modifications so athletes could play without masks. 

While this decision prompted an overwhelmingly welcomed reaction among the athletic community, there were differences when it came to how shocking the news was. Some players expected the outcome, while others were caught off guard by the new guidelines. “I honestly was surprised. I thought we were gonna have to wear masks, but I was hoping we wouldn’t have to,” junior baseball player Brady Yakesh said. 

Originally, a majority of the first mask guidelines stayed the same. However, Governor Walz’s new mask mandate ends the mask requirement outdoors except at large venues with over 500 people. This means that the protocol of coaches, referees, spectators, and non-competing players are being required to wear masks at all times during games and practices could be lifted also, which would be gladly accepted by many athletes everywhere. “It’s kind of weird just taking them off to play, because you never know how long we’re going to be out there without it, and then you have to put it back on right when you get back,” Yakesh said. 

While players wearing masks during competition is no longer required, the Minnesota Department of Health still strongly recommends it. However, if teams decide against following this recommendation, then the Minnesota Department of Health suggests that all participants are tested weekly for COVID-19. While this precaution can be unattainable, teams have taken their own safety measures to ensure the health of their players. “Besides having to wear our masks whenever we’re not playing, we also have designated seats in the dugout, so we aren’t too close together, and all these rules apply to practice as well,” Yakesh said. 

This new spring season rule offers a stark contrast to the winter season, where mask wearing during competition was required. Many current spring sport athletes who participated in winter sports are ready to embrace a season without the added physical complications that masks bring. “In the winter, when I played hockey, it was more of a challenge to play with masks because I had to change how I played in order to accommodate how I was feeling, like it was harder to catch my breath so I had to take shorter shifts and drink more water. Now that I’m playing lacrosse, where I don’t need to wear a mask, it’s a lot easier physically and even mentally because it reminds me of times before covid and that makes me happy,” sophomore lacrosse player Annie Juckniess said.