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MHSAA details COVID-19 guidelines after latest testing requirement from the state

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The Michigan High School Athletic Association will host a news conference March 19, 2021, to answer questions about the latest testing requirements from the state's health department. (WWMT/MHSAA)

The Michigan High School Athletic Association hosted a news briefing Friday to answer questions regarding the latest state order.

Executive Director Mark Uyl primarily discussed the requirement on rapid antigen testing for athletes beginning April 2, 2021.

Testing requirements

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued an updated order, requiring athletes aged 13-19 to be tested for COVID-19 before all practices and competitions. The age group includes both high school and middle school sports and teams.

In an email update to athletic director, Uyl said all remaining winter sports athletes must participate in the rapid antigen program. This requirement would impact quarterfinal, semifinal and final basketball teams. There was no changes to wrestling, since they were already testing, Uyl said.

Student-athletes in spring sports would also be required to take rapid antigen tests on a regular basis, per the state health department's guidelines.

He said further guidance would be released March 20, 2021.

"At this time, there are many things we do not know about the testing of spring athletes. We hope to have further information to you next week well in advance of the April 2 effective date," he said in the email.

Face mask requirements

The health department order stated that face masks do not have to be worn when individuals are exercising outdoors and are able to consistently maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

For spring sport practices that begin on Monday, Uyl said outdoor practices, such as golf, tennis and track and field, would not require face masks if 6 feet of distance from others can be maintained. Face masks must be worn for indoors or if an outdoor activity is not within 6 feet.

He said the association was seeking updated guidance from the state health department about face masks in the non-contact sports of baseball, girls lacrosse and softball, but face masks are required in the contact sports of boys lacrosse and girls soccer at all times.

Uyl said winter sports and tournaments would proceed as scheduled with no changes to current face masks requirements for winter sports.

Winter sports include bowling, competitive cheer, gymnastics, skiing, swimming and diving, wrestling, basketball, and ice hockey.

In general, face masks were required for athletes in basketball, bowling, competitive cheer and ice hockey at all times. Wrestlers would be able to compete without a mask, if they receive a negative COVID-19 antigen test.

The state's top medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said for the first time since COVID-19 outbreak reporting began, outbreaks in K-12 schools exceeded outbreaks in nursing home and congregate care settings.

Outbreaks associated with sports, including high school, club and recreational, reached 315, as of March 19.

Khaldun said with the right resources, it is feasible to provide enough tests, but the health department plans to work with involved parties.