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Michigan High School Athletic Association: High school winter sports to start on time

Marquette’s Maddie Carter, right, guards Alpena’s Macy Dickinson during their MHSAA Division 1 girls basketball district tournament game played in Alpena on March 4. (Alpena News photo by Jonny Zawacki)

EAST LANSING (AP) — Michigan high school winter sports will start on time in November.

Face coverings are required for athletes practicing and competing in basketball, competitive cheer, hockey and wrestling, the Michigan High School Athletic Association said Friday after its Representative Council confirmed this a day earlier.

They are not required for athletes in bowling, gymnastics, skiing and swimming unless the players are on the sideline and not actively participating.

Sport-specific guidelines will be posted next week on the MHSAA website at https://www.mhsaa.com/sports.

“But let’s be clear: Our statewide COVID-19 numbers have to get better,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “In order for our schools to continue playing sports this winter, and in order for fans to be there to cheer them on, we must continue working to slow down this virus.”

The state health department reported 1,826 new confirmed coronavirus cases Friday and 18 deaths.

“People have started to develop some pandemic fatigue. People are letting their guards down,” said Dr. Adnan Munkarah, chief clinical officer at Henry Ford Health System, adding that masks are critical.

He said Henry Ford had nearly 100 COVID-19 patients Friday at its hospitals in southeastern Michigan. It had 32 on Sept. 21 but hundreds more earlier in the pandemic.

While the number of infections has been rising, “We have not seen a similar commensurate increase in the number of admissions,” Munkarah said, noting that younger people have been getting infected.

As with fall sports, scrimmages will not be allowed for winter sports to limit mixing of communities outside of official competitions, the MHSAA noted.

The numbers of teams at regular-season competitions also will be limited, like during fall, with a maximum of four schools or teams allowed in competitive cheer, gymnastics, swimming and diving, and wrestling. Bowling and skiing competitions will be restricted to a maximum of 72 competitors at one event.

There are no school or team limits for basketball and hockey, the MHSAA said, as only two teams are able to play each other at one time and those sports may play only one game per day — with fans leaving after their game is complete.

Host sites must strictly enforce spectator capacity limits on a game-by-game basis, according to the MHSAA. The Representative Council approved as part of these guidelines an allowance of two spectators per participant at all contests to begin the regular season.

This guideline could be reconsidered by the council later in the winter season, with a possibility of allowing more spectators later while still staying within possible emergency orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

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