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Michigan releases guidelines for return of contact winter sports

MDHHS issued an emergency order on Wednesday.
MDHHS issued an emergency order on Wednesday.(WILX)
Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 5:32 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan health officials released a number of guidelines required for the return of contact sports on Monday.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is requiring all basketball, hockey, wrestling and competitive cheer athletes to wear face coverings at practices and during competitions. Athletes who cannot wear a face covering must undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

Other requirements include maintaining 6 feet of social distancing when not actively engaged in playing. Spectators are limited to two per athlete with a limit of 250 people in a venue with fewer than 10,000 seats or 500 people at larger venues.

“Safety protocols like wearing masks and testing will help keep kids, coaches and families safe and allow our schools to remain open for in-person instruction,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel. “We also continue to urge hand washing, using separate equipment as much as possible and frequently cleaning and disinfecting any shared equipment and surfaces.”

Other COVID-19 recommendations for contact sports include:

  • Wash hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Do not share items that are difficult to clean, sanitize or disinfect like towels and gear. Each athlete also should bring their own food and drinks.
  • Avoid handshakes, hugs, fist bumps, high fives and celebrations with other athletes.
  • Practice and play should happen outdoors whenever possible and reduce contact between athletes. Increase air circulation for indoor events by opening windows and doors.
  • Avoid weight rooms and small spaces with poor ventilation.
  • Minimize travel to other communities or regions and limit the use of shared transportation, such as carpools and buses.

“Sports that require frequent closeness between players make it more difficult to prevent virus transmission even when mitigation measures are in place, including masks,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “Even when not required, we urge teams to implement a testing program to protect athletes, coaches and their families.”

Michigan’s high school basketball, hockey, wrestling and competitive cheer seasons have not started yet due to COVID-19 restrictions from the state health department. The ban on those sports originally was slated to last until Feb. 21, but the order was changed last week so they can start now.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association announced the following schedules for contact sports this winter:

  • Boys and girls basketball start regular season games on Monday and playoffs on March 22 and 23. State finals will be April 9 and 10.
  • Competitive cheer starts competitions on Friday with districts on March 17 and state finals on March 26 and 27.
  • Hockey regular season games start Monday and playoffs start March 15 with the state finals on March 27.
  • Wrestling matches start on Friday with districts March 17 and individual state finals on April 2 and 3.

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