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Winter sports to practice, per PIAA

MECHANICSBURG — The PIAA announced that it is allowing schools to begin winter sports practices as originally scheduled this Friday at its Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

While winter sports practices will proceed as scheduled, the PIAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee said that winter sports should be “proceeding with an abundance of caution.”

The PIAA is requiring that athletic teams hold 15 days of practice before regular-season play can begin and is encouraging schools to begin practicing sooner rather than later in an effort to complete an entire winter sports season.

“If we’ve learned anything from the fall, the people that started earlier were able to handle interruptions easier than those that started late because they ran against time and they didn’t have any room in the schedule,” PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said.

The PIAA has made the decision to move forward with winter practices despite rising COVID-19 case counts throughout the state, including a rapidly growing case count in Mifflin County. Mifflin County had 87 new cases reported on Wednesday and 667 new cases in the past three weeks.

Pennsylvania State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine issued a new mask mandate on Tuesday that requires any person indoors and away from there home to wear a mask the entire time that they are indoors, regardless of whether social distancing can be observed. Levine’s mandate also includes athletes and coaches (including cheerleaders) and requires athletes to wear masks while competing in the remainder of the fall sports season and throughout the winter sports season.

Lombardi noted that the mask order would be in effect “if the schools decide so.” He also said that the PIAA reached out to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office about the mask mandate and received no feedback.

Lombardi said the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is concerned of pre-existing exercise-induced asthma conditions, issues with oxygenation and masks possibly retaining carbon-dioxide. Other issues include a mask falling off and becoming a slipping hazard that leads to an injury on a basketball court.

The PIAA is asking schools to abide by the mask order for now until it receives further clarification, the organization announced at its board meeting.

The current mask order has six exceptions, outlined in Section 3 of the mask order:

A. If wearing a face covering while working would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

B. If wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability.

C. When necessary to confirm the individual’s identity.

D. While obtaining a service that requires the temporary removal of the face covering, such as dental services.

E. When working alone and isolated from interaction with other people with little or no expectation of in-person interaction.

F. If an individual is communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired or has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

The PIAA will host a meeting to discuss the winter sports season and championships on Dec. 9.

GENERAL CHANGES

The PIAA made multiple changes that will impact the 2020-21 wrestling season including limiting in-season tournament competition to single day events, limited athletes to compete for their school team only, limiting teams/weight classes to individual mats in tournament competition and permitting the use of an intermission during dual meets and/or tournaments to permit proper cleaning and sanitation.

In-season competition will limit eight athletes per weight class for wrestling tournaments during the 2020-2021 season. At this time it is unclear how this will affect postseason competition.

Other changes include allowing two mats for dual meets to permit alternating mats by weight class to allow for cleaning and sanitation between matches. Schools will also be allowed expand its current restriction of no more than two duals that include multiple schools to four for this season only.

A change approved for swimming, cheerleading, bowling and track competitions allow for the hosting of virtual competition.

LOCAL SPORTS UPDATES

The Mid-Penn Conference announced Tuesday that it plans to proceed with the winter sports season as scheduled, although it will delay the first regular season contest date by one week.

The first practice date for the winter season can begin on Friday, Nov. 20, while the amount of regular season games will be capped at 18 competitions, according to the league. Mid-Penn Division contests will begin on or after Monday, Jan. 4.

The Mid-Penn will not hold swimming and diving championships or basketball championship tournaments this season.

Mifflin County is a member of the Mid-Penn Conference in all sports and will begin their first seasons in the boys and girls basketball in the Keystone Division this season. The Mifflin County wrestling and swim teams are still members of the Mid-Penn Commonwealth entering the 2020-21 season.

While the Mid-Penn is moving forward with winter sports, it is up to the each individual school board as to whether their school participates.

“It is the intent of the Mid-Penn Conference to begin the winter sports season with each school following their Health and Safety plan,” the statement said. “The health and safety of our conference schools, student-athletes, staffs and communities are of the utmost importance.”

The Juniata County School District delayed its winter sports start date to Dec. 1, according to an email sent out by athletic director Travis Quici on Wednesday afternoon. The first contest date will also be Friday, Dec. 18.

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