In light of recent chaos surrounding emergency coronavirus orders, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) has announced that its health and safety guidelines for fall sports remain largely unchanged.
On Tuesday the MHSAA provided an update following the Michigan Supreme Court’s recent ruling against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her emergency powers, saying face mask requirements and capacity limits are still in place.
Previously-established MHSAA coronavirus guidelines for athletes and participating individuals remain unchanged as of Tuesday, but the effective date for social distancing guidelines and spectator capacity limits has changed from Oct. 9 to Oct. 6.
MHSAA face mask requirements
Officials say that face mask requirements will remain the same for athletes and other participating individuals for the time being. MHSAA face covering requirements were initially established on Sept. 10.
Fall athletes participating in football, soccer and volleyball must wear face coverings at all times. Athletes participating in golf, cross country, tennis and swimming are not required to wear face coverings while actively competing or involved in a warm-up or cool-down activity, but are expected to wear them otherwise.
Coaches trainers, managers, media members, game administrators and spectators must wear face coverings at all times. Officials must wear face coverings when not actively officiating. Broadcasters and announcers must wear face coverings when not actively broadcasting and announcing.
MHSAA crowd capacity limitations
The MHSAA announced capacity limits for athletic spectators on Sept. 30. Those requirements remain unchanged, but their effective date has been moved from Oct. 9 to Oct. 6.
Officials say social distancing is required of all spectators and participants, excluding athletes actively participating in their sport.
Capacity limitations vary based on the venue’s seating capacity and if the sporting event is indoors or outdoors.
Here are the spectator guidelines as written by the MHSAA:
"If an indoor event is in a fixed indoor seating venue (gymnasium or pool), 20% of seating capacity is allowed for up to 500 spectators (25% in Region 6). If your gymnasium seats 2,500 or more, you would be able to sell 500 spectator tickets. If your gymnasium seats less than 2,500, take 20% (or 25% in Region 6) of your maximum capacity to determine the number of allowed spectators.
"If an outdoor event is in a fixed outdoor seating venue (football or soccer stadium), 30% of seating capacity is allowed for up to 1,000 spectators. If your stadium seats 3,333 or more, you would be able to sell 1,000 spectator tickets. If your stadium seats less than 3,333, take 30% of your maximum seating capacity to determine the number of allowed spectators.
Note that if an outdoor event is not in a fixed outdoor seating venue (cross country, golf, soccer field with no permanent/fixed seating), a site must maintain no more than 30 spectators per 1,000 square feet of the facility, up to a maximum of 1,000 spectators. We realize this will be challenging to enforce in cross country and golf in particular given the massive expanse of many cross country and golf courses. In these cases, use every opportunity possible to announce and remind all involved to keep social distancing at all times.
“Effective immediately, local schools may use these new indoor and outdoor limitations or may continue to use the two spectators per participant guidance."
Emergency coronavirus order confusion
The MHSAA provided an update Tuesday following the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling against Whitmer and her emergency powers.
On Friday, the court ruled that a 1945 law was unconstitutional, impacting a number of emergency orders the governor made under that law since the beginning of April.
The MHSAA’s guidelines were initially established by executive orders made by the Whitmer. Due to statewide uncertainty over what orders are enforceable and for how long, MHSAA officials said face covering guidelines will remain the same for now.
Officials also said Tuesday that if a local health department issues orders that are stricter than the MHSAA’s guidelines, “member schools and host venues are expected to follow those local orders.”
The MHSAA reinstated fall football and other high school sports on Sept. 3 following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order lifting restrictions on organized sports.