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Michigan players, coaches, parents navigate masks during sports mandate

Face covering must be worn at all times by athletes training for, practicing for, or competing in an organized sport

GROSSE POINTE, Mich. – With fall sports back on track, players and coaches are adjusting to wearing masks while playing after an Executive Order mandated masks be worn during play.

The order came from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer almost a week after she allowed contact sports to resume practices this week and games starting next week.

At Grosse Pointe South High School on Thursday, every team out practicing is still navigating the new challenges. Trainers and coaches kept a close eye on athletes who tried to shirk the new rules and each player was required to have their temperature taken.

While everyone complied, not everyone was happy.

“I really think these masks cause more problems than they theoretically solve. We’ve got problems with mouth pieces," said head football coach Tim Brandon. “The officials won’t be able to see the mouthpieces in and mouth pieces aren’t just about dental safety, but they prevent concussions. We’ve also had kids who’ve had to stop because they’re having trouble breathing.”

“Kind of uncomfortable. Kind of hard to breathe but we’re willing to do it if that’s what we have to do to play,” said senior Justin Maccagone before Thursday’s practice.

Maccagone said his biggest issue was what to do with his mouth guard, which attaches to his helmet face mask.

Some parents said Whitmer has gone too far. In response to the mask mandate, members of the group, Let Them Play, started a petition, calling the masks during play “incredibly dangerous” and want the order removed.

The petition garnered more than 51,000 signatures at the time of this article.

Whitmer took questions Thursday about the mask order including which science she was using to back up the order. While most doctors agree masks don’t pose a health risk apart from those with preexisting respiratory conditions, the World Health Organization warned back in June masks could make breathing uncomfortable and recommended social distancing over wearing a mask while exercising.

Whitmer deferred the answer to the state’s Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who said she understands parent outrage but said players have the choice to mask up or sit out.

“For contact sports it is recommended given where we are with COVID-19 cases across the state it is recommended to wear a mask and if someone is unable to then they may not be able to participate at this time," Khaldun said.


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