TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona athletes will no longer be required to mask up during games.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced Tuesday that due to decreasing COVID numbers, they are getting rid of their mask mandate.
“Due to improving Covid-19 metrics (decreasing Covid cases, increased hospital bed capacity, etc.), the AIA Executive Board voted to approve removing the mask mandate for the spring season and winter playoffs, including Spiritline. Students, coaches, officials and other personnel must wear a mask when not actively playing or in the arena of competition. All spectators in attendance for a contest must wear an approved mask or face covering. Please note that mesh face masks are not acceptable face coverings. All other Covid-19 modifications remain in place.”
Sahuaro High School senior, Lucky Franke, says she will be keeping her mask on for those at home.
“My family is older, and they have diabetes. I just don’t want to get them sick. I take care of them at home so I don’t want to expose them to anything,” said Franke.
Her coach and Sahuaro Athletic Director Steve Botkin is right there with her.
“I understand our numbers are down, our hospitalizations down, but I’m a little worried,” said Botkin.
Botkin said he’s worried because their team has experienced COVID firsthand. TUSD teacher Jim Tallmadge, a beloved and strong supporter of the women’s program, died of COVID complications in December.
“It was during a basketball practice that I had got the news he had passed away and it was awful. So the girls know it’s real,” said Botkin. “If the girls so choose to take them off during a game, we’ll definitely consider that and understand.”
Catalina Foothills coach Doug DaMore said he thinks the AIA decision is good news. He said it’s for the best interest of the players and that there’s been some inconsistencies with enforcement. So having a baseline rule will make it easier.
While winter sports are nearly over, Botkin said they’ve been practicing in masks since November, so why stop now when players are used to it.
But with spring sports already practicing, it will be part of a larger conversation on how to move forward.
“I know a lot of them will feel more comfortable wearing them and again some may want to take them off so we’ll definitely have that discussion for sure,” said Botkin.
Tucson Unified School District said they will be adapting to the new AIA rule. Currently, spectators are not allowed at games but Sahuaro HS said they’ve decided to allow for 25% capacity during the state competitions that begin on Tuesday if they are hosting.