Masks Mandated to Play Sports

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

September 24, 2021

The County Health Department is ramping up restrictions on youth sports events, public and private gatherings, schools and “extracurricular activities,” both indoors and outdoors, to try again to slow the spread of the COVID-19.
Meanwhile, cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue in San Luis Obispo County, as the coronavirus’ Delta variant spreads.

Restrictions Return on Events
The County Health Department released new orders for the pandemic, focusing on gatherings of all types. Called “COVID-19 Requirements and Best Practices: Youth Sports and Extracurricular Activities,” the directive applies to both the public and private sectors and overrides previous guidelines.
“The purpose of this guidance,” the County said, “is to reduce the incidence and spread of COVID-19 infection in SLO County by supporting a safer environment for the young participants, as well as the coaches, instructors, and community members associated with the activities.”

The County said different activities represent different levels of risk for the spread of the virus and depend on “Outdoor or indoor activities, indoor ventilation, the number of participants, their vaccination status, if masks are worn, the level of exertion, and the frequency and duration of close contact.”

The County warns about mingling with groups or teams from outside your community; traveling to and from events in groups; and that sports activities — even singing — makes one breath harder.

“Forceful breath and vocalizations in activities such as singing, vocal projection, and playing wind instruments produce more respiratory droplets and aerosols than typical breathing or talking,” the County claimed. “Unlike typical droplet particles emitted with normal breathing and talking, aerosols travel farther and remain in the air much longer and can be inhaled deep into the respiratory tract.”

Rules for Sporting Events
According to the County’s edict, all indoor youth activities are required to:
• Masks are required for all individuals regardless of vaccination status in all indoor settings;.
• Any face mask that becomes wet or saturated with sweat must be replaced immediately;
• Requirements for employees are different than those for attendees. Employers must follow the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS);
• Note that the directives in a SLO County Health Officer Order must be followed when they are more stringent than a State requirement, including those from CDPH and Cal/OSHA ETS.
There are of course exceptions, as per the American Academy of Pediatrics:
• Competitive cheer involving tumbling, stunting, flying, spotting, or building;
• Gymnastics involving fixed apparatus or aerials;
• Wrestling; and
• Water sports like water polo (do not wear wet masks).
If players and coaches do not want to wear a mask when they compete, then the County said they must be tested every week whether or not they’ve been vaccinated against the virus. And if a player takes off the mask while competing or performing, they must put it back on when not in active play.

Musicians Should Muzzle
The County said singers and musicians are not allowed to play indoors without a mask, even specialty masks.

“Vocalists and wind musicians are not allowed to perform indoors without a mask,” the County said. “Specialized masks for performers may be worn only while actively performing and must be replaced with a standard mask at all other times indoors.”

Wind players — trumpeters, sax players, clarinetists and trombonists, among others — “must place bell covers on the instruments,” as apparently the spit valves on such instruments are not enough, and, the County said the spit valves should never be emptied on the floor.

The County recommends “using a puppy pad (or similar) to catch the contents of the spit valve and discard. Sanitize hands after discarding pad.”
And you’ll need a pretty big stage. “In K-12 settings,” the County commanded, “wind instruments and vocalists must maintain at least 6-feet distance from other performers.”

The County strongly recommended performances be moved outdoors, and “Wind musicians and vocalists should face away from other musicians, indoors and outdoors, and maintain at least 12-feet distance from audience members.”
They also recommend using disposable microphone covers if singers have to share a mic, but to use a microphone so as not to have to sing so loudly.

Deaths Now Top 300
According to the Sept. 17 stats on COVID-19 in SLO County, a total of 306 people had died of the virus, with six over the past week. The people who died ranged in age from their 30s to 80s.

The county added 253 cases and had a total of 556 active cases, a daily average of 84. As of the 17th, there were 32 people in the hospital with COVID-19 and 14 of those were in intensive care.

Dr. Penny Borenstein, County health officer, is urging everyone to get vaccinated, calling it the best protection against having a severe case, as the vaccine has shown not to be able to prevent someone from contracting COVID-19. It has however, been credited for lessening the severity of those who do contract it.

“Even though we continue to make progress in the fight against COVID-19,” Dr. Borenstein said, “it continues to pose a threat to the health and safety of our community — particularly to those who are not vaccinated, including children under the age of 12. Yet we know how to beat this disease. Together, we can stop this surge and prevent more painful losses.”

Free Vaccines Available
So far, more than 70% of eligible SLO County residents had been given at least one of two shots with 62% having gotten both doses.
Vaccines are available at no cost at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, Public Health Department clinics, and mobile clinics countywide.

County clinics are at the Paso Robles Train Depot, and County clinics in SLO and Grover Beach. Morro Bay Drug & Gift also has both testing and vaccines available. See: myturn.ca.gov or call (833) 422-4255 to choose a location, time and vaccine type, or one can walk-in to the clinics and get shot. The myturn.ca.gov website and VaccineFinder.org will have locations near you where the vaccines are available.

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