Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday at a 1:30 p.m. press conference that contact sports would be permitted to resume beginning on Monday, February 8 subject to safety requirements. The order applies to all sports, not just MHSAA athletics, so the restrictions will also apply to club sports and travel leagues. The order boils down to this: full contact practice and competition can begin on Monday provided athletes mask up where possible; for sports where athletes do not wear masks (e.g. masking is not advised for wrestling or competitive cheer due to safety concerns) schools will have to comply with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services guidance that includes a mix of safety protocols and rapid testing.
Per the new epidemic order, the final guidance from MDHHS will not be available until February 7, but the infographics linked below provide an overview of what to expect. Here's a more detailed breakdown of what is provided for in the order:
- Gatherings for the purpose of contact sports practice and competition are prohibited unless:
- Participants remain masked; or
- Where it would be unsafe for participants to remain masked, all participants are tested consistent with MDHHS’s document entitled Guidance for Athletics issued February 7, 2021.
- Gatherings for the purpose of sports practice and competition are prohibited unless participants maintain 6 feet of distance from each other when not engaged in play.
- Gatherings of non-participants for the purpose of observing sports practice and competition must comply with gathering size limitations and other gathering requirements outlined in section 3 of the epidemic order. That includes limits on crowd size: up to 250 patrons may be gathered at venues with a seating capacity under 10,000, and up to 500 patrons may be gathered at venues with a seating capacity of over 10,000.
- Sports organizers, venues, and teams must ensure that all gatherings for the purpose of sports competition and practice comply with the requirements of this order.
- Even where it is not required, sports organizers are encouraged to administer a testing program as specified MDHHS’s document entitled Guidance for Athletics issued February 7, 2021.
Also of note from Thursday's press conference, MDHHS identified three key health metrics that they have been tracking in making decisions about things like resuming sports. Those were:
- Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients has been in 10-week decline, with current capacity at 6.6% for beds with COVID-19 patients. Peaked at 19.6% on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
- Overall case rates: Currently at 159 cases per million after peaking at 740 cases per million on Saturday, Nov. 14. Rate has been in solid decline for 24 days. Three MERC regions in the state are now below 150 cases per million people: the Detroit, Traverse City and Upper Peninsula regions.
- Positivity rate: currently at 4.9% and declining. This is the first time positivity has been this low since mid-October.
MASSP has been assured that all tests will be provided to schools free of charge by the MDHHS. For full details, see the resources linked below: